After a disappointing season, some fans think it was all bad because of how low the lows were. Frankly, I can’t argue with you, because last year shouldn’t be talked about ever again except for educating on the wrong way to do something. There were great moments from 2020, and surprises like Calvin Ridley being named a second-team All-Pro or Chris Lindstrom‘s ascension into the conversation for the top guards around the league, but they were few and far between. So, in this dead time before free agency, we’ll take a look back at some of the happier moments of 2020 with the best individual performances of last season.
Matt Ryan‘s Week 6 performance against Minnesota Vikings
The Falcons started 0-5 for the first time since 1996, and some of those losses were absolutely heart-shattering. The fan base was already blaming anyone and anything they could to feel better about themselves — mostly the defense, but also Ryan. Well, both the defense and Matty Ice came out firing on all cylinders. The former Boston College Eagle was both efficient and dynamic in the first win of the season, completing 30-of-40 pass attempts for 371 yards with four touchdowns — a 136.6 passer rating.
The play to remember had to be the fourth down in the third quarter, where Ryan scrambled to his left (harder for a right-handed QB to throw) and looked to run for the first down. Quickly he realized he wouldn’t be able to make it; Ryan slammed on the breaks and floated back to sail the ball to Julio Jones. The 40-yard touchdown was the top highlight of the game and is what made the victory possible.
Matt Ryan’s day vs. the Vikings:
— The Matt Ryan Vault (@MattRyanVault) October 18, 2020
Foyesade Oluokun‘s Week 9 performance against Denver Broncos
Another pivotal win for the Falcons and their fans was the one over Denver as the first victory in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium last year. Granted, Oluokun played Drew Lock and an abysmal Broncos’ offense, but he was lights out. In the win, the former Yale Bulldog led the Falcons with 10 tackles while also recording one sack, four hits on the quarterback, one tackle for a loss, and one pass deflection. It truly put the league on notice, a breakout game during a breakout season.
Defense’s Week 12 performance against Las Vegas Raiders
I really wanted to keep this list dedicated to the individual players, but the defense’s performance as a unit against the Raiders was a complete shock to everyone and deserved recognition. The Raiders were a quality team, which reminded the fans how talented this team could be because the Falcons dominated them, led by the defense. The Raider’s drives ended (chronological order) in a turnover on downs, fumble, punt, field goal, punt, fumble (halftime), punt, a pick-six, field goal, fumble, fumble, punt, and punt. This was utter domination by the defense. The entire unit, including the coaches, should be accredited for this notable performance. They put the offense in great field position all game long due to the six turnovers forced. Deion Jones had a 67-yard pick-six, Jacob Tuitoti-Mariner was named NFC defensive player of the week, the entire defense accounted for five sacks and five passes deflected — utter domination.
Younghoe Koo‘s Week 12 performance against Las Vegas Raiders
Koo could be one of the best kickers in the NFL if he can consistently perform as he did in 2020. Koo converted more field goals (37) than anyone in the league this year, with the third-highest percentage (94.4%). He was also tied with Jason Sanders and Daniel Carlson for the most points (144). Most impressive about Koo’s leg is his accuracy from deep, kicking a perfect 8-of-8 beyond 50 yards — tied for second with Sanders in the league and behind only Brandon McManus. His best game came against the Raiders, where he was named NFC special teams player of the week. Koo scored 19 points, five of five on field goals, and four of four on extra points. The offense sputtered the entire game, but thanks to Koo and the defense, Atlanta coasted to a 43-6 victory in one of the best moments from 2020.