Through seven games, Ryan has completed 66.4% of his throws for 2,181 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. In Sunday’s 23-22 loss to the Lions, Ryan engineered what looked to be his 39th game-winning drive and 31st fourth-quarter comeback. However, running back Todd Gurley stumbled and accidentally scored a touchdown with 1:04 remaining in the game instead of falling before the end zone.
This gave the Lions the ball back, with quarterback Matthew Stafford, Ryan’s close friend, driving down the field for the game-winning touchdown.
On Monday, Ryan said that in hindsight he would have liked for the team to take a knee instead of to give the ball to Gurley, especially considering the Lions were out of timeouts. Ryan was also asked if he had the opportunity to overturn the play call and kneel the ball.
“That’s not how it works,” Ryan said. “When you’re out on the field you’re operating what comes in. That’s kind of our role. I think (interim coach) Raheem (Morris) hit on it. Of course we would do it differently had we had the chance to do it over again. That’s not really how it works.”
Morris said taking the ball out of Ryan’s hand was his “biggest regret” of the game. In the moment, Morris wanted to get as close to the end zone as possible without scoring. But on a 10-yard rushing touchdown, the Lions allowed Gurley to run open through the middle with safety Will Harris pretending like he was trying to bring him down.
After Harris let go, Gurley’s momentum carried him just a tad too far with Gurley trying to fall down before crossing the end zone line. As Gurley fell, the nose of the ball hit the white line, giving the Lions the final drive to win the game.
“I should have, looking back at it, taken a knee with Matt,” Morris said. “But I just wanted to put the ball in Todd’s hands, a guy who is comfortable carrying the ball in the situation and not having to worry about people jumping on your quarterback, piling on him, trying to knock the ball out of his hands. I wanted to put it in the sure running back’s hands and it was a mistake I made.”
After the game Sunday, Ryan said no communication came into his helmet about taking a knee instead of running the ball.
“Obviously we’d do it differently,” Ryan said. “There’s no question about that. Any time you don’t come away with the result you want, you have to take a look at things critically. I respect him for going out there and saying that. But as players, there are a lot of times throughout the game we could have made plays to make it a different outcome. That’s what we have to focus on. We have to focus on doing our job and making our plays when we get our chances.”
This season has been tough for Ryan, 35, who played in his only Super Bowl just five seasons ago. Since, Ryan’s Falcons reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2017 before going 7-9 in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. At 1-6, it looks like Ryan will miss the postseason for the third season in a row and sixth time out of nine years.
Since joining the Falcons, Ryan immersed himself in the city and became the most successful quarterback in franchise history. If it were up to him, Ryan would remain with the Falcons until he decides to retire.
But with a new regime entering the picture this offseason, decisions like that could be out of his control.
“I’ve said it all along. I love Atlanta,” Ryan said. “I want to be here. I want to be a part of this organization. I don’t worry about noise outside our building. I try to focus on week to week getting myself ready to go. I’ve said it, I want to be here and hopefully that will be the case.”