The former Penn Charter star still took the Falcons to the brink of victory with a final drive that stalled at the San Francisco 10-yard line with a minute left when his fourth-down pass for Roddy White was knocked away by former Penn State linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
“We had two chances there at the end, but they just made good plays, ”Ryan said. “On third down, they had the tipped ball [by linebacker Ahmad Brooks] and then on fourth down we tried to make something happen and we just couldn’t get it done. We fell a little bit short. I thought everybody battled really hard. We just didn’t make enough plays to get it done.”
Ryan finished with a 105.2 passer rating in the Falcons’ two playoff games, completing 70 percent of his passes, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt and throwing six touchdown passes and three interceptions.
He completed 10 of 13 passes for 162 yards in the first quarter Sunday and helped the Falcons jump out to a 17-0 lead before the game was 16 minutes old. But the Niners’ defense shutout the Falcons in the second half. Ryan’s two turnovers, both in San Francisco territory, didn’t help.
“The way we played in the first half, we wanted to keep that momentum going in the second half,” Ryan said. “We moved the ball pretty effectively. The two times we had chances on the plus side of the field, we turned the ball over. You can’t do that. You can’t do that in these types of games. We could’ve used points on those drives.”
Ryan’s interception came on a pass for Roddy White midway through the third quarter. At that point, the Falcons’ 17-point lead had shrunk to three. White appeared to slip on the play, and cornerback Chris Culliver picked it off.
The fumbled snap came late in the third quarter at the San Francisco 28, Atlanta still ahead by three, spoiling a chance for at least a field goal.
“It was just kind of a freak play,” Ryan said. “I took my eye off the ball for a quick second and it ended upon the ground. Against a good football team you can’t have those kinds of mistakes."