- Matt Ryan
- Atlanta Falcons
- Falcons 40, Chiefs 24
- 23-for-31, 299 YD, 3 TD, 0 INT
- Watch Highlights
- Tony Romo
- Dallas Cowboys
- Cowboys 24, Giants 17
- 22-for-29, 307 YD, 3 TD, 1 INT
- Watch Highlights
The Pregame Pressure
Despite boasting a résumé that includes three playoff appearances in four seasons as the Atlanta Falcons' starting quarterback, Matt Ryan doesn't seem to get much credit on the national level. His critics like to point out his struggles in the postseason as a reason for leaving him off the list of elite NFL quarterbacks. Ryan had the best statistical season of his career in 2011, but that was overshadowed by his less-than-stellar performance in the Falcons' embarrassing playoff loss to the New York Giants. Ryan didn't turn the ball over in that game, but he was held under 200 yards passing and the offense he directed failed to put a single point on the scoreboard. On Sunday, Matt Ryan and Atlanta opened the season on the road against a Kansas City Chiefs team that many pundits projected to win the AFC West. All throughout the offseason, the Falcons made it known that their offense would rely more on Ryan and the passing attack than in any of the quarterback's previous four seasons. This game was billed as big test to see if Ryan was up to the task.
With the possible exception of Tim Tebow, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been the NFL's most scrutinized player over the past few seasons. Is he a clutch performer? Is he an elite quarterback? Is he capable of leading the Cowboys to the Super Bowl? Those are just a few of the topics constantly debated by radio hosts, TV analysts and Cowboys fans across the country. Romo had the best year of his career in 2011. He piled up 4,184 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Unfortunately, those numbers didn't result in a postseason appearance. A week before knocking Matt Ryan and the Falcons out of the playoffs, the Giants throttled Romo and the Cowboys 31-14 to secure the NFC East crown. The Giants cruised through the playoffs and captured the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in the past five years. Last Wednesday night, Tony Romo and the Cowboys were back in New Jersey to take on the same team that ended their 2011 season. There wasn't a division title on the line, but this was a great opportunity for Romo and the Cowboys to send a statement to the defending Super Bowl champs and the rest of the NFC.
The In-Game Performance
Matt Ryan was nearly flawless in the Falcons' blowout win over the Chiefs. He led the Atlanta offense to scores on eight of their nine drives. They were only forced to punt one time during the entire game and that didn't take place until late in the fourth quarter. Ryan did just about everything you could ask of your quarterback. He was extremely accurate, made great decisions and even created some plays with his legs. One touchdown was the result of him surveying the coverage and changing the play to get Julio Jones the ball on a quick screen. His touchdown run took place after quickly scanning the field, refusing to force the ball into coverage and sprinting to the end zone. If there was a mismatch in the Falcons' favor, he found it and exploited it every single time. The Chiefs were without four of their starters on defense, but Ryan's performance was still something for Falcons fans to be extremely excited about. He looks to have taken his game to a whole new level in 2012.
Tony Romo started off a little slow in this game before heating up and leading the Cowboys to an impressive win over the Giants. After tossing an interception and failing to produce any points on his first four drives of the game, Romo recovered nicely to lead the Cowboys to scores on his remaining four drives. Despite facing constant pressure, Romo found a way to buy time, keep his eyes downfield and deliver strikes. He effectively spread the ball around to seven different pass catchers. Prior to this game, not many fans were familiar with WR Kevin Ogletree, but Romo made sure that changed by the end of the night. The duo connected eight times for 118 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants secondary was missing some pieces as this game wore on, but Romo was without the full-speed services of his favorite target, Jason Witten. The veteran tight end did play some in this game, but he wasn't much of a factor. With the weight of the previous season's disappointing finish on his shoulders, Romo answered his critics with a phenomenal start to the 2012 season.
The Post-Game Pick
Both quarterbacks were outstanding in their Week 1 contests, but I would give the slight edge to Matt Ryan. His highlights weren't quite as sexy as Tony Romo's, but his execution was a bit cleaner. He didn't turn the ball over and produced points on his first eight possessions. Romo was outstanding, but he did have one turnover off a poor decision and took a little while to get going against the Giants. However, despite a few miscues, he still played at a championship level. If both of these quarterbacks continue to perform like they did this past week, they could be on a playoff collision course. In that event, one of them would be guaranteed to enjoy some much-needed postseason success.