Matt Ryan won't fully satisfy his critics until he experiences success in the postseason, but the Atlanta Falcons quarterback is off to a phenomenal start in 2012. Ryan and his teammates flexed their muscle with three convincing wins to open the season, but they needed some late-game heroics to get past the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately for the Falcons, Ryan delivered. Here are three aspects of Ryan's game that impressed me on Sunday:
1) His toughness:The Falcons offensive line struggled to protect Ryan throughout the game, but the signal-caller showed his toughness by continuing to hang in the pocket and make big throws. Often when a quarterback takes this type of punishment, his eyes begin to notice the rush and he can lose his poise. Ryan didn't allow that to happen.
2) His arm strength: Ryan clearly answered any questions about his arm strength during this game. He hurled a beautiful 49-yard touchdown to Roddy White in the first half and then launched a 59-yard strike to set up the game-winning field goal. He also threw with enough velocity to squeeze several balls into very tight quarters throughout the game.
3) His ability to perform in the clutch: Statistics are nice, but quarterbacks make their reputations based on how they perform in game-deciding situations. Ryan aced the test Sunday. You won't find a more difficult scenario than the one Ryan found himself in at the end of this game. Pinned at his own 1-yard line, Ryan calmly stood in the pocket and found White for the big play the Falcons desperately needed. Following that long completion, Ryan showed the veteran poise to simply take the easy underneath throws and put the Falcons in good field-goal position. He didn't get too greedy, and his patience paid off with a win.