HOUSTON – Matt Ryan was just about perfect in his first Super Bowl test – handling the vulgarity that is the Opening Night media scrum/fan fest.
The first-timer was as cool as a Super Bowl veteran. Why, some could even say Matty was icy.
But we did catch a slip-up, one that didn’t become evident until we went back and reviewed the digital recorder (which took markedly less time than the average NFL review).
When asked if he could name all 13 players who caught at least one touchdown pass from him this season, the sheer weight of that number was too much for even the Falcons quarterback. He began rattling off names one after another, hit a wall and said “Hopefully that’s all of them.” The recount had him at only 11. He forgot wide receiver Justin Hardy (4 touchdown receptions) and fullback Patrick DiMarco (1).
No harm. He’ll just throw a couple more their way and keep everybody happy.
The one Ryan definitely didn’t forget was wide receiver Julio Jones. And when it came time to embellish his thoughts on this particular target, Ryan was downright poetic.
“Julio is amazing, he really is,” Ryan began.
“He’s an unbelievable athlete. Big. Strong. Incredibly fast. Has a great change of direction, unbelievable hands, incredible ability to track the ball in the air. To me he’s one of those special players that if you’re lucky you get to play with once in your life. I’m certainly very lucky to play with him as long as I have.
“And you couldn’t ask for a better teammate – incredibly unselfish, a great worker, just somebody you want to be around.”
So when the natural follow-up arose – do you think he’s the best in the NFL – Ryan didn’t hesitate. Never let it be said that he doesn’t know who to keep happy.
“To me he is, absolutely. There are a lot of great receivers but Julio is right at the top. He is as good as it gets,” Ryan said.
Allow me to second that notion. You can keep your Beckham and your Brown, and all the receivers who are a little short on Jones’ freakish combination of abilities and also require more tending than a hothouse orchid. When Jones is healthy – a rather large conditional – who’s possibly better?