Brian Allee-Walsh

Ryan puts legacy on the line against Seahawks

Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh
Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh Biloxi

NEW ORLEANS His NFL MVP-worthy performance this season speaks for itself.

But ultimately, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will be judged by how he plays this postseason, how far he takes his NFC South-championship team in the playoffs.

The legacies of great quarterbacks often are determined by their performances in one-or-done games, those played on the Road to Super Bowls, not those played on the roman-numeral roundabout during a dizzying 17-week season.

To date, the Falcons are 1-4 in the postseason with Ryan under center.

That represents a woeful .200 winning percentage, the equivalent of baseball’s Mendoza line which is used to define the threshold of incompetent hitting.

In other words, the Falcons aren’t hitting their weight in the playoffs with Matty Ice on the mound.

“We’ve won in the playoffs before, so I really don’t worry about that too much,’’ Ryan said on the eve of Saturday’s divisional clash at 3:35 p.m. against the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome. “For me, it’s about, ‘How do we get the win (this) week?’ Putting any more pressure on yourself other than that is a waste of time.’’

It may be, but the pressure to succeed — the outside clutter and noise from media and fans — grows exponentially with each playoff loss.

Coincidentally, Ryan’s lone playoff victory came against the Seahawks in the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs, when the Falcons entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That 30-28 win at the Georgia Dome launched the Falcons into the conference championship against the Jim Harbaugh-coached San Francisco 49ers a week later.

The Falcons were unable to defend their home turf, losing 28-24 after failing to convert third- and fourth-down plays from the 49ers’ 10-yard line inside the final two minutes.

And here we are four years later, in a rematch of a Week 6 game won by the Seahawks 26-24 at CenturyLink Field. The outcome came down to a controversial no-call against Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman in downfield coverage against Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones with 90 seconds left.

Ryan committed two turnovers in that game, resulting in 10 points for the thieving Seahawks, including the winning 44-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 1:57 left following a Ryan interception at midfield.

I bring up these two gaffes by Ryan because he placed a great deal of emphasis working on his ball security during the offseason under the watchful eyes of coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Last season, Ryan committed 21 turnovers with four of his 16 interecptions coming in the red zone. This season, Ryan accounted for only nine giveaways, a career-low seven interceptions and two lost fumbles (one each coming against Seattle). He threw just one red-zone interception with 23 of his career-high 38 TD passes coming in the red zone.

He also posted a league-high 117.7 passer rating and yards per attempt (9.3).

It all adds up to a MVP-caliber regular season for Matt Ryan.

Beginning Saturday, it doesn’t mean a thing in the postseason.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a New Orleans-based columnist and can be reached at sports@sunherald.com

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