Prior to this season, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots had won two-and-a-half times as many NFL Playoff games as Matt Ryan had ever even played in his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons. After defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, Brady improved his NFL Playoffs record to 24-9. Ryan and the Falcons, who returned to the post-season this year for the first time since 2012, now have an overall playoffs record of 3-4 since Atlanta lost in the first round to end Matt’s NFL rookie season. In two weeks, at Super Bowl 51, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan go head-to-head for only the third time in their careers.
Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan — History
In 2009, Tom Brady was playing his 10th season in the NFL and had already won three Super Bowl rings. Matt Ryan was in his sophomore NFL year, in what would be a failed effort to return the Falcons to the NFL Playoffs. In Foxborough, Brady and the Patriots handed the Falcons their first loss of the season in Week 3, leaving both teams at 2-1 entering Week 4. In that game, Ryan threw for 199 yards with no touchdowns, interceptions or sacks and finished with a passer rating of 82.3. Brady threw for 277 and a touchdown, without any interceptions or sacks, finishing with a passer rating of 87.1. New England would end up defeating Atlanta 26-10. While the Falcons wouldn’t qualify for the post-season, the Patriots would lose at home in the Wild Card round to the Baltimore Ravens.
Four years later, Brady and the Pats would travel to Atlanta in Week 4, giving the Dirty Birds and Ryan a shot at redemption. Matt would rack up 421 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, an interception and 2 sacks with a passer rating of 91.7. Tom would finish the game with 316 passing yards and two touchdowns without a sack or interception, resulting in a passer rating of 119.8 for the game. The Patriots would end up winning the 30-23, improving their record to 4-0 in a season that would end with a loss in the AFC Championship game. The Falcons, 1-3 after this loss, would finish the season 4-12.
With the New England Patriots considered three-point favorites over Atlanta, Matt Ryan and the Falcons will try to prove the old adage that “the third time’s the charm” in Super Bowl 51 with an upset victory.
Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan — 2016 Regular Season
In 2016, Matt Ryan started all 16 regular season games for the Atlanta Falcons, who finished with a record of 11-5 and the second-best record in the NFC. He ranked second in the league in total passing yards (4944) and had the highest passer rating (117.1) of any quarterback in the league. He had the third-highest completion percentage (69.9 percent), second-most touchdown passes (40) while only throwing seven interceptions.
After starting the season by serving a four-game suspension, Tom Brady would return to the Patriots lineup in Week 5 and help lead New England to victory in 11 of their final 12 games. He averaged 296.2 yards/game, the fourth best in the league (Ryan finished second overall at 309.0 yards/game). Brady threw 28 touchdown passes and just two interceptions, finishing second in the league behind Ryan in passer rating (112.2) among regular starters in the NFL.
Having won their last seven regular season games, Tom Brady and the Patriots are currently on a nine-game winning streak. Matt Ryan and the Falcons last lost in Week 13 to the Kansas City Chiefs (by a score of 29-28), putting them on a six-game winning streak with their post-season victories included.
Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan — NFL Playoffs History
Tom Brady and Matt Ryan had almost the exact opposite results in their first three post-season appearances. While missing the NFL Playoffs completely in 2002, Tom Brady led the Patriots to Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Ryan and the Falcons missed the 2009 post-season, while being eliminated after their first game in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Ryan led Atlanta to the NFC Championship game in 2012, but the franchise hasn’t been to the league championship since losing to the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl 33. On the heels of the “Deflategate” scandal, Brady and New England won Super Bowl 49 just two years ago.
Statistically speaking, Matt Ryan has out-performed Tom Brady in many respects as a passer. Ryan has completed 67.0 percent of his pass attempts (versus Brady’s 62.4 percent) with a cumulative post-season passer rating of 91.9 (versus Brady’s 88.7). In his seven NFL Playoff games, Matt has thrown for 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions while averaging 2.0 sacks per game. In Brady’s 33 post-season games, he’s thrown for 61 touchdowns and 30 interceptions, while averaging just under 1.5 sacks per game.
Both quarterbacks led their teams to dominant victories in their respective Divisional Playoffs and Conference Championships in this year’s post-season. Brady has thrown five touchdown passes and two interceptions with a passer rating of 99.5, while Ryan has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 125.7.
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Where to Watch Super Bowl 51
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will play Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, February 5. The game will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas with kick-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST. It can also be streamed live via Fox Sports Go and NFL Game Pass. Super Bowl 51 can also be heard on Sirius XM Radio.
[Featured Image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]