FLOWERY BRANCH — Matt Ryan reacted just the way one would expect of a rookie who just threw a 62-yard touchdown on his first NFL pass.
"He was frolicking down the field," said fullback Ovie Mughelli on Wednesday as he recalled Ryan’s celebration in last Sunday’s win over Detroit.
"That just shows his youthful exuberance and how excited he was for a touchdown."
Falcons center Todd McClure had a slightly different view, at least until he was bowled over as Ryan hopped and skipped down the field to embrace receiver Michael Jenkins in the end zone. With one of his bounces, Ryan knocked McClure to one knee.
"It was like that commercial where the guy sees a girl on the beach and he thinks she’s running at him and she’s actually running at the guy behind him," McClure said Wednesday. "That was kind of what I felt like. He just kind of pushed me to the side and kept going to the end zone."
No apologies were necessary, but the rookie heard from the 10-year veteran.
"Yeah, Todd got on me," Ryan said. "Apparently I hit him pretty good after that touchdown. But I think it was all in good nature, because I think everybody was pretty pumped up after that one."
It may have been impossible to script a more memorable debut for the No. 3 overall draft pick from Boston College.
It also made for a difficult act to follow as Ryan and the Falcons prepare to visit Tampa Bay on Sunday.
"It was just one performance, and I think that’s the biggest thing," Ryan said. "We have 15 more to go and we have to do everything we can to get better. There are a lot of areas for us to improve."
Ryan was 9-for-13 passing for 161 yards with the touchdown and no interceptions. After Ryan’s big play on his first pass, running back Michael Turner dominated the rest of the game, setting a team record with 220 yards rushing and a career-high with two touchdowns in the 34-21 win.
Turner, who averaged 10 yards per carry, showed why he’s called The Burner.
Ryan, who played with poise, showed why he’s called Matty Ice, a nickname Mughelli said began spreading through the locker room this week.
"That was a college nickname; actually, it started in high school," Ryan said. "I don’t know who picked it up down here.
"I respond to it, so I guess that’s the mark of a good nickname."
Ryan earned the nickname by performing with a cool demeanor, and he looked calm in his debut, at least when he wasn’t trampling his linemen.
"It’s just a nickname, though," Ryan said. "It’s not as true as everybody thinks."
Poise will be important as Ryan makes his first road start, but his strong opening game helped convince his teammates he is ready for the next challenge.
"There’s no real concern, and there never really ever was for Mr. Matty Ice," Mughelli said.
The opening performance came at home before fans eager to see the quarterback picked to replace Michael Vick as the new face of the franchise.
Mughelli says the rookie now has to brace for a different environment.
Even ice reacts to heat.
"It’s going to be different in a road game in the regular season," Mughelli said. "He’s gotten over the hurdle of the first home game, but he’s going to have to get used to the crowd noise and get used to the fans booing. He’s gone through it in college, but it’s different in the NFL."
The Falcons can simulate crowd noise in practice. It’s more difficult to prepare for Derrick Brooks and the Buccaneers’ defense.
"Certainly it’s a defense that has been around for a while," Ryan said.
"As a rookie you definitely want to bounce some stuff off the veterans’ shoulders, because they know so much. I’ve been trying to do that this week."
Better to bounce questions off the veterans than to bounce the veterans to the turf.
McClure says "we’re going to get tested this week," but he says no one is worried about the way Ryan will react.
"I think for everybody, after working with him in training camp, we knew what he was going to be about and the confidence he has and the confidence we have in him," McClure said.
"We knew he was going to be able to go out and execute and that’s going to be a key to our success the rest of the season, him being able to stay calm under pressure."