ATLANTA -- Matt Ryan didn’t make any excuses. Instead, he owned up to his mistakes.
While it felt good to walk away from Monday night’s matchup against the high-octane Philadelphia Eagles with a 26-24 win, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback knows he didn’t play his best game. The defense picked up the slack in the first half and beyond as Ryan and the offense sputtered at times. That’s not a theme anyone anticipated coming into the season opener. It's probably not a pattern the Falcons want to rely upon moving forward, either.
The Eagles used the momentum to take a 24-23 lead.
The pick to Thurmond was Ryan’s second of the game as he finished 23-of-34 for 298 yards and a passer rating of 90.1. The first interception came in the end zone when Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso made an amazing one-handed stab in front of intended receiver Roddy White while falling to the ground.
"On the first one, it was a pretty good play," Ryan said of the Alonso interception. "The throw's got to be a little bit higher. And it’s unacceptable. In the red area when you’re going in to score, you’re taking points off the board. So that one can’t happen.
"And then the second one, it was third down being backed up. You don’t like to turn it over there, either. But they kind of did a good job with their coverage. … Can’t make that decision."
Ryan understands he has to take advantage of every opportunity, particularly when the offensive line plays better than expected. The Eagles' vaunted defensive front was credited with just one sack and hit Ryan just three times. The rebuilt line with left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard Andy Levitre, center Mike Person, right guard Chris Chester and right tackle Ryan Schraeder did an admirable job, with some chip help here and there from the tight ends and running backs.
Ryan got the ball out quickly, particularly on a variety of plays to Julio Jones (nine catches, 141 yards, two touchdowns). And it certainly benefited Ryan that the Falcons finally established a running game, with rookie running back Tevin Coleman rushing for 80 yards on 20 carries.
"We stayed ahead of the chains really well,’’ Ryan said. "First and second down was really productive, both with the run game and the pass.
"The area we really need to improve is third down. I think we were like 4-of-14 tonight on third down. The production on first and second down was exactly what you want. On the drives that we moved the ball really well, we made first downs on first and second down. But red zone and third down, it’s an area where we’ve been pretty good in the past. And I think we’ll continue to get better at that as the year goes on.’’
One missed third-down opportunity late almost proved costly. On a third-and-1 from their own 43 with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in regulation and clinging to that 2-point lead, Ryan and the Falcons opted for a run play to Coleman that was snuffed out for a 4-yard loss. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Ryan had the ability to audible to a pass play based on the look.
"We had a little success with that play going into it," Ryan said. "It’s one of those things that when it doesn’t work, you’d always like to have something else up."
Thankfully for Ryan, the defense came up with a big stop at the end with free safety Ricardo Allen's game-clinching interception with 1 minutes, 17 seconds remaining.
Again, Ryan didn’t make any excuses for putting the pressure on the defense. He always sets high expectations for himself and the offense. And you can expect Ryan to make the necessary adjustments going into a Week 2 game against the New York Giants.