Matt Ryan responds in the clutch

Behind the Falcons' last drive and how Atlanta will attack the 49ers' D

Originally Published: January 13, 2013
By Seth Wickersham | ESPN Insider
Matt RyanStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesMatt Ryan finally got his first playoff victory on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

ATLANTA -- The question was the same. All week long, all game long, from the Georgia Dome to the San Francisco 49ers' team complex, as the 49ers watched to see whom they'd face next Sunday, everyone wondered -- never more than with 31 seconds left, as the Falcons took over at their 28-yard line, momentum seeping out of the stadium, trailing the resurgent Seahawks 28-27 -- the same thing: How will Matt Ryan answer?

Before Ryan ran onto the field, Luke McCown, his backup, recited to him the situation: two timeouts left. "All we need is a field goal," he said. Left unspoken, of course, was that the Falcons, thanks in part to a terrible interception by Ryan, had blown a three-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. Still, referring to comebacks this year against the Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders, McCown told Ryan, "We've done this before."

"OK," Ryan said, nodding.

Seth Wickersham

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Seth Wickersham joined ESPN The Magazine after graduating from the University of Missouri. Although he primarily covers the NFL, his assignments also have taken him to the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs. Email him and follow him on Twitter at @sethwickersham.