Atlanta's Ryan loses QB duel but Falcons win the game


SEATTLE -- After being dumped 13 times in the Falcons’ first three games, Matt Ryan stayed mostly upright in Seattle yesterday, as the Seahawks were unable to sack him.

Partly because of that, the Falcons found the end zone on three of their first four drives, building enough of a lead to hold off the surprisingly resilient Seahawks 30-28 at Century Link Field.

Ryan had a predictably productive afternoon, completing 28 of 42 passes for 291 yards. Besides the fact that he remained mostly upright for 60 minutes, the only other surprise was that Tarvaris Jackson had a statistically better day with three touchdown passes and a higher quarterback rating.

But Ryan’s team won, which was obviously more important.

“We made enough plays to win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter when they come.”

Ryan was referring to questions that were asked about the Falcons’ offense, reporters wondering how it could move up and down the field in the first half and sputter in the second.

Early in the third quarter, the Falcons led 27-7 and outgained Seattle 304 yards to 136. Having a 20-point lead on the Seahawks was like having a 50-point lead on anyone else in the NFL – Seattle had scored just 30 points in its first three games combined and entered yesterday’s game with the 31st-ranked offense.

Suddenly and inexplicably, the complexion of the game changed. Jackson looked more like Ryan than Ryan did, and the Falcons resembled the punchless Seahawks, unable to cross the goal line in the second half.

“Seattle did a great job making adjustments,” Ryan said. “They brought the safeties up to stop our run game. They did a nice job of taking that away from us.”

The snuffing of Michael Turner put Ryan in a lot of third-down passing situations, and though he converted some, the Seahawks got enough opportunities to make a game of it and nearly steal it at the end.

With Roddy White not at full strength because of a bruised thigh, Ryan threw more frequently to Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, one of whom is a perennial All-Pro and, in time, the other could be too.

The other, of course is Jones, the spectacular rookie from Alabama who came up with 11 receptions for 127 yards, including a 45-yard SportsCenter-maker when he beat Brandon Browner down the left sideline on the first play of the second half. That led to the second of Matt Bryant’s three field goals and the 27-7 lead.

“That matchup was the one we wanted to go to,” Ryan said. “It was one of those days where the ball found him.”

Regardless of how it was earned, Ryan and coach Mike Smith were just happy to leave Seattle with a win, each emphasizing how hard it is to beat any team at home. The Seahawks certainly qualify as “any team.” Many in Seattle feel Pete Carroll’s squad has a better shot at  Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the  projected No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft,  than defending its NFC West championship.

Ryan scoffed at those who doubt the Falcons are the same 13-3 team of a year ago.

“We’re a quarter of the way through our football season,” Ryan said. “We’re 2-2 and in position to have everything we want.”