‘Tough Irishman’ Ryan helps Falcons forget Vick

You have to wonder how Matt Ryan felt seeing thousands of red-and-white Michael Vick jerseys scattered throughout a raucous Georgia Dome crowd Sunday night.

The Falcons’ fourth-year starting QB was overshadowed in the whirlwind leading up to Vick’s return to Atlanta, but Ryan’s grit in a 35-31 victory over the Eagles wasn’t lost on his coach, Mike Smith.

“He’s a tough Irishman,” Smith told The Associated Press. “I’ve said that before. He gets hit, and he takes that hit and he keeps going. He is a guy that will never give up. When you have a guy like that leading your football team, it’s going to pay dividends in the long run.”

While ex-Falcons coach Dan Reeves believes the organization abandoned Vick in his hour of need, it’s hard to fault the franchise for moving on when the passer’s future — and commitment to football — was up in the air during an 18-month stay in federal prison on dogfighting charges.

Both quarterbacks took a beating Sunday. Vick left the game with a concussion. Ryan hobbled around following a second-half sack, but he rebounded to lead the 14th of his game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. It was a performance that saved the Falcons’ night and potentially their season. It’s more of the same from Ryan, whose 34 wins in three-plus seasons is just shy of Vick’s 40 in six seasons in Atlanta.

“This is a team that doesn’t blink,” Smith said. “This is a team that stays focused, knows what the task is, and to the best of their abilities goes out and tries to perform.”

— Marc Sessler

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