Ryan completed 25 of 35 passes and threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks and also gave up an interception in the fourth quarter that led to a massive shift of momentum.
But even after Seattle scored three touchdowns in the final quarter to erase a 20-point deficit and grab a one-point lead, Ryan calmly led Atlanta down the field to set up Matt Bryant's 49-yard game-winning field goal.
Ryan had lost all three of his playoff games heading into Sunday's clash in the Georgia Dome, leaving question marks over whether the 27-year-old quarterback had what it takes to thrive in the high-pressure environment of the postseason.
"Our goal isn't to win one playoff game and to stop answering that question. Our goal is still in front of us and we have two more games to go," said Ryan, whose team host the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football Conference title game on Jan. 20 for a place in the Super Bowl.
"That is my mindset and the one our team has. We still have some work to do."
Ryan, drafted third overall by Atlanta in 2008, was so nearly facing an 0-4 career playoff record after an outstanding rally from Seattle and he took a large part of the blame himself for his interception.
With a little over 11 minutes remaining Ryan overthrew a pass intended for receiver Roddy White and Seahawks safety Earl Thomas snaffled up the opportunity.
"The one thing that threw us off was the interception that was just a bad play on my part. It is something I can't do. But luckily we made enough plays after that to come out with the win," said Ryan.
The quarterback said Atlanta's previous pain in the playoffs had helped prepare them for the tension of the wild finish to Sunday's game.
"You're past experiences, harden you, they make you a little bit tougher in those situations," said Ryan.
"If you have an opportunity, with time left on the clock, you can get it done - that was the way everyone felt going out on the field. We felt if we could make that first play, we have two timeouts, enough time and a great kicker who we trust and I think everyone was confident."
With 31 seconds remaining, Ryan found Harry Douglas and then veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, who was able to make his catch and then celebrate his first playoff win after 16 seasons.
"Tony is just Mr. Reliable, he is just so consistent. He did a great job with the route, created separation, gave me a good window in which to throw it," said Ryan.
"Then Matt Bryant stepped out there and knocked it right through the pipes - that was a great way to end." (Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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