Thank you, Matt Ryan.
As a member of the media for almost 10 full years now, there are very few things that give me more pleasure than narrative-busting performances that force a lot of narrow-minded group-thinkers to come up with some other default tagline every time a certain player, coach or team's name is mentioned.
"Matt Ryan stinks in the playoffs."
It's not just that Ryan destroyed this narrative, as he and his team dominated the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. It's that it was never true in the first place.
In 2008, Ryan was able to lead an undermanned Falcons team that was terrible the year before into the playoffs, before they lost to an Arizona Cardinals team that Kurt Warner took to the Super Bowl that year.
The Falcons were the No. 1 seed in 2010, but they ran into buzz saw known as Aaron Rodgers, as the Packers sliced and diced every team in their way en route to bringing another Lombardi Trophy back to Lambeau.
In 2011, the Falcons lost to a Giants squad that beat the Patriots to win a Super Bowl of their own.
Matt Ryan got his first playoff win in the 2012-13 season against the Russell Wilson-led Seattle Seahawks, before coming up a few yards short in the NFC Championship Game that year against the 49ers.
That's why his record was 1-4 prior to this year in the playoffs. A sterling postseason record? Far from it. "Matt Ryan stinks in the playoffs" was not a fair characterization either, however. And fortunately, that narrative has disappeared. Hopefully forever.
Instead -- unless he can knock off Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the omnipresent Patriots -- a new albatross will hang around his neck, like every other stellar passer that has failed to win the game's ultimate prize.
"Can't win the big one."
Fair or not, that may end up being the conversation this offseason, but for now there are a lot of folks that need to offer a mea culpa based on how Ryan and this team have played this year. By any statistical measure, we are talking about one of the top five offenses in the history of the NFL.
Ryan has been particularly sharp, as evidenced by his yards per attempt this year, which is the best in NFL history for players with at least 400 pass attempts. No big deal.
Fortunately for him -- and unfortunately for a lot of folks that prefer to lean on their default verbal crutches -- that performance has continued in the postseason.
The combination of a fast and young defense that was hand-picked by Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff and personnel man Scott Pioli over the past two years, and an electric offense under the direction of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, has led the Falcons to humble both the Seahawks and Packers the past two weeks. They are relentless on both sides of the ball and opponents have wilted under that pressure.
The key, though, has been the guy known as Matty Ice. As if his off-the-charts regular season wasn't enough, his performance in the playoffs has cemented the fact that he should clearly be the MVP of the NFL this season.
Whether he wins that award remains to be seen. What isn't up in the air any longer is what folks can say about his postseason success, or lack thereof, moving forward.
Nobody can say "Matt Ryan stinks in the playoffs" anymore.
Instead, they may have to say "Matt Ryan, Super Bowl Champion".