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Atlanta Falcons' First 7-0 Start in Franchise History


Matt Ryan’s homecoming could not have gone much better. A product of Philadelphia’s William Penn Charter School, “Matty Ice” led the Atlanta Falcons to a 30–17 statement victory against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in the “City of Brotherly Love.”

The win was Ryan’s first in three attempts in his hometown, Atlanta’s first victory at Philly since Oct. 30, 1988, and the first loss Eagles coach Andy Reid has taken in a game after the bye week during his 14 years since taking over in 1999.

Ryan threw touchdown passes on the Falcons’ first three possessions, while leading the Dirty Birds on scoring drives in each of their first six possessions of the game.

“When you do that, it’s going to be a good day,” said Ryan, who completed 20-of-29 passes for 262 yards, three TDs and zero INTs for a season-high 137.4 passer rating.

The Falcons are now 15–0 when Ryan passes for three or more touchdowns. The fifth-year signal-caller out of Boston College, meanwhile, has thrown at least one scoring strike in 22 consecutive games — trailing only Super Bowl-winning future Hall of Famers Drew Brees (49) and Tom Brady (40) in that category.

The victory was also a milestone for coach Mike Smith, who passed Dan Reeves (49–59–1) to became the winningest coach in Falcons history, carrying a 50–21 career record. Smith needed the third-fewest games in history to reach the 50-win plateau — trailing George Seifert (62 games) and Chuck Knox (65 games).

“It’s not about a coach,” said Smith, who has led the Falcons to the playoffs in three of his first four seasons since taking over the top spot in 2008.

“There are a lot of people that contributed to the number of wins since (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and I have gotten here. It’s about the players. It’s about the coaches. There are a lot of people that make contributions to that. We’re glad that we were able to get the win this week … We’ll enjoy this for a few minutes and then move on.”

The NFL’s lone remaining unbeaten team, Atlanta improved to 7–0 for the first time in franchise history by defeating Ryan’s predecessor, embattled Eagles quarterback Michael Vick — who was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001 and played for the Falcons until being convicted of felony charges in August 2007 for his involvement in a dog fighting ring.

How far Atlanta has come since Vick and coach Bobby Petrino were replaced by Ryan and Smith. The Falcons have gone from disgraced franchise to favorites in the NFC in five short years. But Ryan doesn’t want to hear about a potential undefeated season or trip to the Super Bowl.

“You can’t get caught up in all the ‘what ifs’ about what could happen,” said Ryan. “If you just keep your focus, you’re going to be fine.”