By Max Calderone | Reporter
There are 14 former Baylor football players currently on an NFL roster, but none of them will be competing in the Super Bowl this year.
Matt Bryant, kicker for the Atlanta Falcons, was the last former Bear standing before his team was knocked out of title contention on Saturday. The Falcons lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 15-10.
At age 42, Bryant was the oldest player remaining in the playoffs. He made all of his kicks in his team’s two games, sinking five field goals and three extra points.
“We can always count on him,” Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after a game on Dec. 31. “No doubt about it, he is going to make it. He’s been a great player for us and he keeps showing his worth. Age doesn’t matter in this game. If you have a craft and you go out there and you master it, you can make plays.”
Bryant played for Baylor in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. He holds the school record with a 100 percent success rate on extra points, going a perfect 42 of 42. He ranks seventh on the program’s all-time scoring list with 105 points. Bryant’s 21 completed field goals place him fifth all-time amongst Baylor kickers.
In the Falcons win against the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 6, Bryant drilled two field goals from over 50 yards and was a big reason for Atlanta’s Wild Card Round victory, accounting for 14 of the team’s 26 total points.
In Will McFadden’s Jan. 7 column on Atlantafalcons.com, Atlanta special teams coach Keith Armstrong noted how Bryant’s experience in big games helped him keep his composure against the Rams.
“It’s a great advantage to have him,” Armstrong said of Bryant earlier in the week. “He’s been in the moment several times, and he loves that. He loves that challenge. And that gives us enough confidence that you’re like, ‘OK, he’s got it.'”
Bryant didn’t get nearly as many chances this week against Philadelphia’s stout defense, in which the Falcons were held scoreless in the second half.
Bryant opened the scoring with a 33-yard make to put Atlanta up 3-0 and tacked on an extra point with 5:41 remaining in the second quarter to keep the Falcons ahead 10-6.
But it was opposing kicker Jake Elliott who stole the show, drilling all three of his field goal attempts for the Eagles, including a 53-yarder as time expired in the first half that proved to be important.
The Falcons had a chance to stay alive, but failed to convert a 4th-and-goal play when quarterback Matt Ryan tried to find Jones in the end zone and the pass fell incomplete.
“It hurts,” said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn following the game. “We thought we had one of the best opportunities. We weren’t prepared to have this not go our way.”
The 2018 Super Bowl will be played on Feb. 4 in Minnesota. As for Bryant, he is expected to return for the 2018 season, which would be his 17th year in the NFL.