REPORT CARD: Ryan carries the Falcons to victory

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The Falcons rallied from a double-digit deficit (13-0 and 20-7) twice and won 37-34 when Matt Ryan tossed the team on his back and carried them to victory against the New Orleans Saints.

Ryan was simply dazzling as he dodged defenders, slipped out of the side of the pocket and continued to find his receivers. He completed 31 of 43 passes (72.1 percent), while connecting with nine different receivers.

The Falcons amassed 568 total net yards in the win, the highest single-game yardage total in franchise history. Atlanta topped the previous mark of 563 yards set against the Rams in 1980.

Matt Ryan became the Falcons all-time leader in touchdown passes (156) while also setting the franchise record for total passing yards in a single game with 448. Ryan topped QB Chris Chandler’s single-game record of 431 yards set against the Buffalo Bills in 2001.

Falcons safety William Moore hits Saints wide receiver Marques Colston causing a fumble recovered by the Falcons in overtime in their NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Atlanta. Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu (left) recovered the fumble. The Falcons went on to kick a field goal to win the game 37-34. (By Curtis Compton)

Ryan had a 128.8 passer rating. He has led the Falcons to a 35-2 record when he posts a passer rating of 100-or-higher.

Here are the Falcons’ grades for the victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome.

GAME BALLS:  Matt Ryan, Matt Bryant and William Moore. See above for Ryan. Bryant had the two big field goal kicks from 51 to force overtime and from 52 for the win. Moore had the strip of Marques Colston in overtime that set up the game-winning kick.

A-plus – Quarterback: See above. I've covered all of Ryan’s games as a Pro except for two games at the end of 2012. I concur with coach Mike Smith who said, "I thought Matt may have played his best game as an Atlanta Falcon,”

A – Running backs: Running backs coach Gerald Brown had his committee of four ready for action. Steven Jackson averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Jacquizz Rodgers averaged 5.7 yards per carry and had that scintillating 17-yard touchdown run. Antone Smith had just two carries from scrimmage but caught his only pass and took it 54 yards for a touchdown. Rookie Devonta Freeman averaged 7.5 yards per carry and picked up a big first down in the second quarter. With Ryan’s 15 yards on three scrambles, the Falcons rushed for 123 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown.

A -- Wide receivers/Tight ends: Julio Jones caught seven of nine targets for 116 yards. Devin Hester got off to a slow start with a drop, but finished with five catches for 99 yards. Roddy White added five catches for 72 yards and Harry Douglas had six catches for 69 yards. Levine Toilolo caught three of six targets for 19 yards and had a touchdown. Toilolo pulled around and blocked the linebacker on Rodgers’ touchdown run. He received a bear-hug from offensive line coach Mike Tice following the play.

A-plus -- Offensive Line:  The unit gave up just one sack and cleared the way for the rushing attack. It wasn’t always pretty, but they were scrapping all game long. Gabe Carimi had to take over at left tackle for Jake Matthews, who went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Lamar Holmes and Carimi were rotating at right tackle before Matthews left the game.

C -- Defensive line: Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson were making their presence felt along the interior. Jonathan Babineaux had the only sack, but it was erased by a penalty. Kroy Biermann was busy with six tackles and one for a loss, but he was shook in the open field by Saints running back Pierre Thomas. The unit was not able to mount much of a pass rush. Officially, they didn't have a sack nor a quarterback hit.

C — Linebackers: Paul Worrilow led the team with 15 tackles and Joplo Bartu had 10 tackles. He recovered the key fumble in overtime.

C-plus -- Defensive backs: Free safety Dwight Lowery was on the hot seat for this game and made 11 tackles. He showed that he’s a solid open field tackler. The unit had trouble with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and rookie Brandin Cooks. The Saints passed for 333 yards and one touchdown. William Moore came up with the big play in overtime and Robert McClain had the big interception in the end zone when the Saints were threatening to score.

A — Special teams:  Kicker Matt Bryant made all three of his attempts, including the game winner. Punter Matt Bosher averaged 45.7 yards net on three punts and had one touchback. Hester was not a factor in the return game. He had one punt return for 1 yard and one kickoff return for 21 yards. The kickoff coverage unit allowed New Orleans’ Travaris Cadet a 34-yard kickoff return.

A-plus -- Coaches:  Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s game plan was dazzling. The use 10 and 11 personnel helped to spread out the Saints defense and allowed Matt Ryan to find the receiver who had one-on-one coverage. The three- and four-wide receiver formations were effective. Also, Koetter received a lot from the four running back committee and got a red zone touchdown grab out of Toilolo. I didn’t down grade the defensive coaching, because the unit is clearly still working through multiple issues. The defense created the turnovers that were needed to pull out the victory. We’ll get a little harder on them as the season progresses.

NEXT UP: The Falcons travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals , who pulled out a thriller over Baltimore in week one, at 1 p.m. Sunday.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Ryan carries Falcons to thrilling 37-34 victory over the Saints

Kicker Matt Bryant is the Ice Man II

McClain lays claim to nickel back spot, picks off Brees

Jake Matthews suffers ankle injury, does not return

Falcons quotes after 37-34 win over the Saints

Ryan breaks Bartkowski's mark for most TD passes in franchise history

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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