A Ryan pass to Harry Douglas for 22 yards. A Ryan pass to Tony Gonzalez for 19 more. Bryant from 49 for the win. Moneyball. Would have been good from 59.
What would have been the worst lost in Falcons’ history — 28-3 was four years and three weeks from happening — became the second-greatest victory in team annals, trailing only the upset of 15-1 Minnesota in the Metrodome for the NFC title. Ryan and Bryant — closers extraordinaire.
Was it mere coincidence that Bryant's misses Sunday came in the first game Ryan hadn't started since 2009? Probably. It was also symptomatic of this wretched season. The quarterback who never gets hurt gets hurt. The kicker who would go months between misses begins pushing kicks wide left and right. The defense — still terrible. The O-line — ditto. The coaching — nonexistent. Ergo, 1-7.
This isn’t to suggest that Bryant has been scapegoated. For the first time in 11 seasons as a Falcon, he wasn’t doing his job. We say again: He’s 44. Adam Vinatieri, maybe the greatest kicker ever, is 46 and has missed four field-goal attempts and four PATs for Indianapolis this season. It happens to every athlete. Heck, it happens to every human. Time is undefeated.
A personal note: For the longest time, I never expected Bryant to miss — because, for the longest time, he didn’t. From 50 yards, from 55, it didn’t matter. The man was all but unerring. To see him the past few weeks has been equal parts sobering and sad. He was once among the very best things about this franchise, but now he’d become as fallible as … well, pick any of the defensive backs who haven’t yet identified DK Metcalf as an eligible receiver on the goal line.
Credit the Falcons for sensing what was coming with Bryant. Debit their account for failing to locate a suitable replacement. They got it half-right, which is about the best this forlorn franchise can hope to do.
The Falcons are turning to Younghoe Koo (pronounced “Young Way Coo”), a Georgia Southern alum drafted by the Chargers in 2017. He also was waived by the Chargers in 2017. He hasn’t kicked in an NFL game since. He hasn’t made an NFL field goal longer than 41 yards. Now he’s expected to be an upgrade over one of the most distinguished Falcons ever. Good luck with that.