QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
HT: 6-4, WT: 228, Born: 5-17-1985, College: Boston College, Drafted: Round 1, Pick 3
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Stats and Week 21 Projection
Week 21 Injury Status and Other News
He was not listed on Friday's injury report.
Week 21 Matchup InfoThe Atlanta Falcons have a bye this week.
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Game SummariesWeek 1 at NO - Ryan played well enough for the Falcons to win this game, but there were too many factors going against him. The most compelling of those was the Falcons offensive line. Right tackle Lamar Holmes had his first start and he had a difficult time preventing pressure, getting outmanned on the edge or bullrushed into the backfield. There was a sequence of two series at the end of the half and early in the third quarter where Holmes' poor play disrupted the passing game. The Saints sacked Ryan three times and forced an end-of-half intentional ground penalty that ended a drive. Ryan and the coaching staff made adjustments in the second half, employing a successful screen game to Steven Jackson. Some of the Falcons' biggest passing plays were these targets to Jackson. With Roddy White clearly limited by high ankle sprain, the Falcons could not use a lot of it's play action boot leg game that targets its veteran receiver and yields a lot of chain-moving plays. Ryan didn't have time to throw the ball deep and his biggest play was an intermediate cross to Harry Douglas against a blitz that allowed the receiver to run free for a total gain of 52 yards.
Another thing to watch early in the week is the status of Ryan's hip and lower ribs. He took a huge shot from rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro on a slide ending a scramble in the first half that drew a roughing call. Ryan was holding his side for a number of plays after that hit. He should be ok, but monitor how he responds 24 hours after the game. Despite the pressure and the White injury, Ryan continued to demonstrate fine rapport in the red zone with Tony Gonzalez, rolling right and hitting Gonzalez at the goal line for a touchdown. Ryan also went 5-of-7 on the final drive of the game and hit Steven Jackson crossing the goal line on for what should have been the game-winner, but Jackson allowed the throw to bounce off his chest. Ryan almost hit Gonzalez for the game-winner on the next play, but Vaccaro tipped the ball just enough to alter the throw inches from Gonzalez's hands and the tight end tipped the pass into the arms of a Saints defender in the end zone in the game's waning seconds. Defensive pressure is going to be a huge issue for the Falcons this season if the right side of the line. White's health will be integral because the play action game off short drops and backside throws and play action bootlegs set up bigger plays. Until White demonstrates that he can accelerate and cut, Ryan will face more pressure and may have more difficulty generating big plays in the vertical game.
Week 2 vs STL - The Falcons went into the game with a plan to feed Steven Jackson, but the big back left the game and didn't return after five touches in the opening series that culminated in touchdown reception on a short flare route in the right flat of the red zone but also resulted in a thigh bruise. At this point, Ryan and the Falcons had difficulty running the football with Jacquizz Rodgers whose first six carries resulted in three yards. The Falcons abandoned the run for the short passing game, hitting backs and tight ends in the flat and using Julio Jones on short screen passes as the run-game substitute. Ryan did have some success in the intermediate passing game, finding Harry Douglas and Julio Jones on seam routes. The latter connection resulted in an 81-yard touchdown when the corner bit inside, Jones broke outside, and Ryan hit the WR in stride 20 yards down field. Jones did the rest of the work. However, the underlying story continues to be the Falcons' offensive line. Ryan was hit numerous times in the second half and multiple times on that sore hip that rookie safety Kenny Vacarro hit last week in the opener. Ryan also got sacked twice in the second half as the Falcons allowed a commanding first-half lead to dwindle with multiple three-and-outs. In fact, the Falcons did not get into the Rams territory the entire third quarter and half of the fourth. Ryan was slow to rise from the turf multiple times and his grimaces from pain well after the contact were notable. While it didn't hurt his play, Ryan took more hits in this game than he should and during the Falcons' two minute drill the team's right tackle Lamar Holmes was winded and getting forced into the pocket repeatedly by Chris Long. The most effective plays for Ryan was the outside screen to Julio Jones, who he found twice during a game-sealing drive in the fourth quarter with this call. On the same drive, Ryan was forced to his left and then loft the ball to the middle of the field to Jones for the first down. The good news for Ryan's fantasy owners if Steven Jackson misses time is that the Falcons will emphasize the short passing game that is piling up the yardage for the Falcons quarterback. The potential bad news is that the offensive line is still struggling and this has minimized Ryan's ability to generate productive targets with the play action vertical game.
Week 3 at MIA - Ryan started hot with short passes, going 11-of-13 in the first quarter. However, all of the passes were conservative plays. There were no punts by the Falcons' offense in the first half, but the Falcons failed to put this game away. Ryan didn't target a route over 30 yards in this game. The Falcons relied on crossing routes, slants, RB and WR screens, and dig routes - even when incorporating play action. They also benefited from Miami losing defensive end Cameron Wake to a knee injury in the first half and the Dolphins' line was already missing tackle Paul Soliai, which further hurt the pass rush and made the front vulnerable on the ground. The largest gains came on plays after the catch. This included a screen pass to Jason Snelling in the first half and a second-half slant to Jones for a first down. Ryan's two touchdowns were red zone plays. The first was a shovel pas to Jason Snelling, who broke a tackle for a seven-yard score and the second was a play action crossing route to rookie tight end Levine Toilolo. In the fourth quarter, the Falcons could not convert touchdowns in the red zone, settling for two field goal attempts and missing a chip shot that gave the Dolphins the chance to earn the come-from-behind win. Ryan had a shot with 0:34 left, but on second down he was hit by Dion Jordan off the edge while targeting his receiver up the left sideline and this altered the target, resulting in a short pass and an interception to seal the game. Although the Dolphins' secondary often appeared overmatched one-on-one against Julio Jones and the linebackers unable to stop Tony Gonzalez in tight coverage, the Falcons' choice to run the ball and use a short passing game kept the game close and when they attempted to test the Dolphins in the intermediate zones the safeties were able to provide help. Until Roddy White can function as the single receiver on one side of the field rather than forcing the Falcons to use him as the bunch set receiver, Atlanta's passing game will lack that precision intermediate element that forces the best corner on White and then allows the trips side to benefit Julio Jones deep.
Week 4 vs NE - The Falcons quarterback has a strong day statistically, including an opening drive where he went seven-of-nine. However, the real story of the Falcons offense is what is not happening in the red zone. Ryan couldn't find an open man on the next two passes inside the Patriot's six and Atlanta had to settle for a field goal. Despite mounting a comeback, which included the Falcons recovering an onside kick and driving for another field goal to close the gap within seven and then stop the Patriots on fourth down, Ryan could not connect with his receivers in the red zone and this cost the Falcons a chance to tie the game. Between the first and last drives of this game, Ryan and the Falcons offense did a fine job of using Roddy White to open the field for Tony Gonzalez. Even so, Ryan was hit-and-miss with the tight-window throws to the tight end. There were two strong seam routes thrown over the head of the trailing linebacker that Gonzalez caught as well as a nice throw that led Gonzalez on a corner route for one of Gonzalez's two touchdowns. However, Ryan also led Gonzalez too far or into coverage on crossing routes where the tight end was open with a better target. The Falcons' offensive line continues to have issues. Left tackle Sam Baker incurred two penalties during the Falcons' second series of the game, creating a 2nd and 23 inside Atlanta's 5. The pressure often forced Ryan to climb or leave the pocket. One good development from this game that was different Atlanta's initial games was Ryan's aggressiveness in the second half of the game. Until he hit Tony Gonzalez on a 21-yard touchdown pass, which wasn't really a 9-yard throw with a 12-yard run after the catch, Atlanta had only completed one pass over 20 yards this season. Ryan not only targeted Roddy White deep and drew a defensive pass interference all, but the Falcons' quarterback also found Julio Jones two deep plays, including a streak up the sideline with perfect placement in tight coverage that gave the Falcons field position and a chance to tie the game. Ryan did get sacked twice in this game and both times the offensive line allowed pressure up the middle despite the fact defensive tackle Vince Wilfork injured his foot in the first half and didn't return. Although the Falcons' win-loss record appears grim for September, the gradual progression Roddy White is making with his ankle and Steven Jackson's expected clearance next week should continue to open opportunities for Ryan. Despite the offense not operating at peak capacity and the offensive line still struggling with injury and inconsistency, Ryan and his teammates continue to produce in the passing game.
Week 5 vs NYJ - The Falcons continue to face the same challenges they have since the first week of the season. The offensive line cannot handle blitzes with any consistency and right guard Garrett Reynolds got dominated by the Jets' bull rushes up front both as a pass protector and run blocker. Combine the offensive line woes with the absence of Steven Jackson and slow-healing ankle of Roddy White, and the Falcons offensive continues to operate with an adjusted scheme. Ryan operated in the passing game from a lot of three-step drops or shotgun looks featuring quick throws on slants, hooks, under routes, and crossing routes to his receivers and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Only when the Falcons were down by double digits in the fourth quarter did the Falcons get aggressive down field. With Roddy White leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the early fourth quarter, the Jets dared Ryan to go deep to Julio Jones against Antonio Cromartie. The Falcons quarterback threw three deep passes to Jones in fourth quarter and to Ryan's credit he was accurate an all three. The first was go-route broken up by Cromartie in the end zone. The second was dropped pass that if caught would have been nullified by a pass interference penalty on Jones. The third was a one-handed grab by Jones got get into the Jets' red zone while Cromartie held the receiver's inside arm. These throws were not the most impressive part of Ryan's performance on Monday night. The Falcons quarterback did a good job finding his tight end Gonzalez in the shallow and intermediate zones throughout the evening and also forced the officials to call penalties on the Jets' red zone double-teams on the tight end. Ryan also did a great job of taking advantage of New York's focus on Gonzalez by calling and audible to a draw play for a 20-yard score that cut the Jets' lead to six and then a 3-yard stride to second-string tight end Levine Toilolo to take a one-point lead late. If not for a Geno Smith game-winning drive, Ryan's poise and late-game decision-making would have been the story.
Week 7 vs TB - The Falcons' quarterback had a fantastic outing despite the absence of Roddy White, Julio Jones, and STeven Jackson. Atlanta's quarterback did a fine job of mixing the run and the pass in this contest even if the run wasn't effective on a carry-to-carry basis. Moreover, the Falcons looked to Harry Douglas multiple times with great success. One of the plays was an intermediate crossing route that Ryan threw while retreating from pressure, hitting Douglas for a 27-yard gain. Ryan later found Douglas on rookie cornerback Jonathan Banks for a 37-yard touchdown up the seam. Ryan set it up with a nice shoulder fake at the same time Douglas beat the corner with a double move. Two of Ryan's three scores were targets to Jacquizz Rodgers. The first was a flat route from an empty set with Rodgers in the slot. The result was a 19-yard catch and run. The second target was a nice adjustment to pressure, finding Rodgers with a short dump-off and the runner did the rest. One of the best throws of the day, in any game, was a third-down fade route to Drew Davis, who made a one-handed catch behind tight coverage with his outside arm to get Atlanta inside Tampa territory. Ryan demonstrated excellent timing up the seams in this game. Efficient, accurate, and handling pressure adeptly, Ryan completed all but six passes in one of his best performances all season.
Week 8 at ARI - Ryan didn't throw a touchdown until the fourth quarter of this contest. There were several reasons why the offense was ineffective. First, the ground game could not generate any production in the middle of the field. Second, the Cardinals took the lead early and this allowed their aggressive defense to pin its ears back and rush the passer. And third, this aggressive defensive mentality of the Cardinals is highlighted by A-gap pressure (between center and guard) from two of the better linebackers in the game today: Darryl Washington and Karlos Dansby. Most quarterbacks have issues with pressure up the middle but Ryan's mobility is at its best when he's moving on designed boot legs and not escaping the pocket and improvising on the run. The A-gap pressure disrupted Ryan's rhythm throughout the contest, forcing the Falcons' passer to throw four interceptions. If he wasn't intercepted or nearly intercepted due to his attempts to throw the ball in the face of A-gap pressure, he was sacked or had multiple passes tipped by the Cardinals defense. Despite the poor statistical outing, Ryan did some good things that make him a fine NFL starter, but they were confined to short passes off play action. Otherwise, the pressure and lack of experienced receivers forced Ryan to take chances he normally doesn't take. If Atlanta cannot generate a ground game for Ryan to use play action and Roddy White cannot return to his 100 percent form soon, the Falcons lack the weapons to take the primary defensive focus off Tony Gonzalez in the red zone or from stacking the box against the ground game to force third-and-long situations.
Week 9 at CAR - Ryan and the Falcons got better play from the offensive line and Steven Jackson this week. The Falcons' running back earned several gains between 4 and 9 yards in this game and it helped slow the Panthers' pass rush, limiting Carolina to one sack that came in the fourth quarter. However, the lack of weapons in the passing game was still a major obstacle for the offense and ultimately was the cause for mistakes that cost Atlanta chances to stay in the game. One of the positives for Ryan was the Falcons' ability to find Tony Gonzalez with greater consistency. Even this development wasn't without some rough moments, including a first-quarter interception where Ryan targeted Gonzalez up the seam from an empty shotgun set and linebacker Luke Kuechly undercut the route for the turnover. Ryan continues to make nice plays in every game. He had a pretty touch throw on an intermediate cross to Harry Douglas that allowed the receiver to outrun Captain Munnerlyn after the catch and reach the right sideline for additional yards. Ryan also found Douglas with a back-shoulder throw up the right sideline in the second half that put Atlanta into Carolina's side of the field. Yet, Ryan also had his share of bad throws. One was a 3rd-and-four pass to Gonzalez on a crossing route where Ryan literally placed the ball so far behind the tight end that the veteran had to turn and reach behind his back shoulder to steal the ball that was perfectly placed on linebacker Thomas Davis' catch. And after that back-shoulder throw to Douglas to get into Panthers' territory, he overthrew Douglas on a crossing route, forcing the receiver to tip the ball into the arms of a Panthers' defensive back. Ryan later threw a pick-six to cornerback Drayton Florence on a sideline comeback to Drew Davis, who could have done more to sprint back to the ball after his break, but Florence read Ryan's eyes all the way and had a great jump on the route. Roddy White worked out before the game so he's likely ready to return in the next week or two. When he does, this should open the offense for Ryan, Gonzalez, and Douglas down the stretch.
Week 10 vs SEA - The Falcons had starting left tackle Sam Baker for exactly one week and had to return to Lamar Holmes this week against Seattle. Combine this development with an already weak offensive line and the Seahawks pressured Ryan up the middle for much of the day. Seattle forced Ryan to abandon most routes beyond 10 yards in length or make throws while retreating from the line of scrimmage. Ryan had one quality intermediate throw in this game and it was an intermediate cross to Roddy White from the slot against a zone defense in the first quarter. Otherwise, Ryan's targets were dump-offs to runners, short hook and flat routes, or the occasional screen. Ryan's one touchdown was a fourth-down slant to rookie Darius Johnson on reserve cornerback Byron Maxwell who subbed for Brandon Browner after Browner suffered a groin injury in the first half. This touchdown culminated one of only two Falcons' possession between the start of the second half and the two-minute warning. Ryan was sacked multiple times in the second half. Although the return of Roddy White is encouraging because White looked fluid and explosive for the first time all year, the receiver only completed his first full week of practices since this summer and the coaching staff told the media that this week White would not be the same player as his reputation because of a lack of conditioning due to the hamstring injury. As a result, the only big-play weapon outside was Harry Douglas and the Seahawks did an excellent job of scouting the Falcons' passing game and shutting it down. One of those examples involved Douglas on a WR screen that was blown up in the backfield. Another was a middle screen in the red zone to Steven Jackson, a play the Falcons have run with success to its backs - including one for a score a few weeks ago. However, Seattle read and stuffed Jackson at the line of scrimmage an foiled the play.
Week 11 at TB - The Falcons quarterback played three and a half quarters, got sacked three times, threw a crossing route in the second half to Harry Douglas who gained most of the 80 yards after the catch, and threw two interceptions before he was benched for Dominique Davis with Tampa Bay up 41-13. The Falcons ran the ball well early, but the offensive line gave up all three sacks in the first half to Gerald McCoy and all three were at the expense of center-turned-guard Peter Konz. This killed two promising drives early. With the Buccaneers' offense running well, it took the Falcons off its intended game script to run the ball. Ryan was then forced to look to more intermediate routes and without healthy outside receivers capable of beating single coverage, Ryan was forced to check down and the Buccaneers anticipated this with great coverage on short and intermediate crossing routes. If Ryan couldn't complete a pass within the rhythm of a first read off a three-step drop, he was often forced to scramble. If he did throw the ball late in these situations where the first read wasn't available, he was attempting to deliver the ball down field with some level anticipation to the back shoulder of a receiver. This did not work well. One of these plays was a back shoulder play in the first half to Harry Douglas that was lofted high while hit and Douglas couldn't make the catch. Still, it resulted in a pass interference. However, Ryan also forced an inadvisable throw to Darius Johnson after Steven Jackson picked up a safety blitz but Adrian Clayborn looped around the line and hit Ryan who rushed his pass and it resulted in an interception. Ryan also saw several passes dropped, including multiple throws to Roddy White and one to Tony Gonzalez at the right sideline after a terrific scramble to avoid three defenders in the pocket to find the tight end. Ryan's final interception was a fourth-quarter throw to Harry Douglas on a deep cross that Dashon Goldson picked off. Dominique Davis entered the game with five minutes left, but then the backup got hurt with 2:30 left and Ryan had to re-enter the game. He threw a short touchdown to Roddy White late in the game, a six-yard score in the right flat that White powered over the line. Ryan was accurate and made smart decisions with the resources he had, but drops, pressure, and a lack of a vertical game make Ryan a mediocre producer, at best.
Week 12 vs NO - Ryan was sacked five times in this game, including another series where his offense gave up consecutive slants. Atlanta tried to run empty shotgun sets but the pressure was often too great for the alignment to be effective. Atlanta came into this game with its fifth offensive lineup variation of the season. While the right side of the line was a little better with Jeremy Trueblood, moving Lamar Holmes back to left tackle was a big reason Cameron Jordan earned three sacks or pressured Ryan into sliding into additional defenders. As has been the case for most of the season, Ryan was most effective throwing flat routes, seam routes, and crossing routes to Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons often used these two on the same side and with routes breaking at similar depth to present an either-or type of read for the zone defenders. Ryan did make an aggressive throw down field in the first half against backup safety Corey White, who was on rookie Darius Johnson. This drew a defensive pass interference call of 31 yards, put Atlanta into Saints' territory, and within a few more attempts against White, got the cornerback benched for a red zone play. Overall, Ryan's accuracy suffered due to the constant pressure and he nearly threw an interception on a crossing route to Johnson that Malcolm Jenkins undercut. The Saints' Jordan also had a near-interception on a third-quarter screen pass that might have been a pick-six. Ryan spread the ball around well, but he lacks a deep threat an a precision receiver to take pressure off the pass protection and keep defenses off balance.
Week 13 at BUF - Ryan had his best day in weeks thanks to Roddy White finally performing at a level close to full health. The Falcons offense was better in nearly every phase of the game despite the fact that the coaching staff made a change with the lineup of the offensive line in the second quarter, which was the sixth variation of the starting unit on the field for Atlanta this year. In fact, Atlanta's line did its best to stop the Falcons' skill players in this game. The Bills sacked Ryan five times in this game, including two in the first half from Jerry Hughes. There was a botched snap in the third quarter that LB Kiko Alonso recovered and there was even a 2nd and goal from the one in the first half where Ryan got tripped by his linemen on a potential handoff to Steven Jackson that set up a 3rd and goal false start on the following play and forced the Falcons to settle for a field goal. Despite the sacks, the missed assignments, the penalties, and the other various mistakes, Ryan was able to rely on White as an intermediate and deep option. Among the 10 completions to White in this game was a 30-yard route up the right sideline set up by a double move in the third quarter against tight coverage from CB Leodis McKelvin. Ryan was also very close on a back-shoulder fade against the same corner, but White was slow to turn and could only get one hand on the ball. Between these two plays, a deep cross, and a fine-looking dig route in the second half, the Bills were forced to single cover Tony Gonzalez, play lay off the potential screen game and crossing routes to Harry Douglas, and account enough for the passing game in general that the Falcons achieved some balance with the run. Ryan becomes a viable option as a starter once again because as I have been saying for months, White proved during his "depressed performances" that he is that straw that stirs this Atlanta drink.
Week 14 at GB - The game didn't end well for Ryan, who attempted a 25-yard out in the waning seconds for a shot at game-winning field goal position that two Green Bay defensive backs undercut and resulted in a Jarrett Bush interception. The snow, wind, and eight-degree temperatures didn't help Ryan's yardage total, either. However, there continued to be signs that the Atlanta offense is getting healthier. For the first time all season, Atlanta used Roddy White as the backside, single receiver for some short-drop, play-action slants and hooks that White could not run while the high ankle sprain hampered the receiver. These short passes were key plays that moved the chains on early drives, helping to set up the run game and then play action to other receivers. White's early success forced the Packers' linebackers to account for the quick passing and opened run lanes for Steven Jackson for some strong gains early. Combined with an early Green Bay turnover, Atlanta earned good field position and scored twice in the first half. The first touchdown was a slant to receiver Drew Davis who got jammed at the line of scrimmage by Clay Matthews. Because Ryan earned an unusual amount of time in the pocket, he found the receiver late in play and hit the Davis in stride. Davis turned the play to the opposite hash for the score. The second touchdown was a two-yard play action pass to Gonzalez who was wide open slipping from the I formation to the right flat. The goal line play was set up by a 3rd and 9 slant to White in tight coverage from Sam Shields. This was the best the Falcons passing game had to offer. The rest of the game included overthrown deep routes, including a third down deep corner route to Darius Johnson in single coverage in the first series of the game that could have resulted in at least a first and goal situation. Ryan also had a handful of passes that were off the mark in the middle of the field, including a crossing route to Tony Gonzalez that Clay Matthews nearly undercut for the interception and a high throw to Jason Snelling on a first-half circle route that the fullback had to make a heck of an effort to tip and then steal from the arms of linebacker Brad Jones to make the reception. Ryan also had a smash screen to Harry Douglas that the offensive line was setting up well in the left flat, but Ryan rushed the throw due the pressure and overthrew the route. Pressure continues to be a huge factor that's hurting the Falcons' offense. Ryan fumbled away a ball after getting hit from the blindside and took a second hit in the game that was ruled an incomplete pass, but it was a close call. Put Atlanta's offense in better weather conditions and Ryan probably has more success due to the way this game plan is opening due to White's return.
Week 15 vs WAS - the Falcons quarterback and the offensive line had a much better first quarter and a half than the final two and a half quarters while hosting Washington. The Falcons employed a lot of empty sets and quick passes early in the contest and Ryan began the first three series 10 for 12 for 95 yards and a touchdown to Tony Gonzalez. Despite a nice start to the game, Ryan got bailed out by his receivers on a few notable plays that could have resulted in interceptions. One of those plays was a first-half play where Ryan was flushed right and threw the out to Gonzalez on the run in tight coverage. the defensive back had the angle on the ball at the three, but Gonzalez reached past his back shoulder and stole the ball from the defender while staying in bounds. There was also a check-down in the second half to the running back Matt Snelling in the middle of the field and Snelling had to reach for the ball in the midst of the defensive front to make the play. Atlanta didn't take any chances down field in this game, opting for intermediate routes like deep-ins, outs, and seam routes over anything vertical. Ryan's interception was a seam route intended for Harry Douglas that he overthrew because he couldn't see over his passing lane due to a defender leaping towards him. This was one of three passes Ryan threw high or sailed over his receivers. The Washington defense also did a strong job of pressuring Ryan from the edges of the offensive line. Brian Orakpo had multiple sacks and Ryan Kerrigan had a sack and fumble on a play during the second quarter that gave Washington good field position, but the Washington offense fumbled the ball away. There was actually a stretch in the second quarter where Washington and Atlanta traded turnovers on back to back to back possessions. The most effective passing plays for Atlanta in this game where empty set formations where they used Gonzalez and Roddy White on the same side of a trips set and forced the linebackers and safeties to double cover one and allow Ryan to find the other. Although sacked three times in this game, which seems to be the baseline number for Ryan in a given week, the Falcons quarterback has done a strong job on third down and against blitzes. In this game he executed a deft pump fake against a safety blitz to climb the pocket and hit a receiver down field for the first down. He also took advantage of mismatches like Tony Gonzalez on London Fletcher, drawing a defensive interference that set up a red zone series despite the play not earning the quarterback points in the box score. Ryan still looks like the same good quarterback he's been for the past three seasons, but until he has a full complement of weapons that are healthy and capable of stretching the field, Ryan is a mediocre fantasy option.
Week 16 at SF - Ryan entered this game with roughly 75 percent of his pass attempts for 10 yards or less during the season. Ryan had multiple completions for more than 10 yards in this game thanks to Roddy White who was healthy enough to run comebacks, dig routes, and outs against tight coverage with some burst. Although the tally of Ryan's 48 completions will probably yield a 25 percent attempt rate of 10-yard plays, the impact of the longer gains was evident in this contest. The first of such was a 59-yard catch on a 3rd and 4 pass play where Ryan avoided the backside pressure, climbed the pocket, and flipped the ball up the seam to Drew Davis. The young receiver made a defender miss with a great spin move, crossed to the opposite flat and was dropped at the San Francisco five, setting up a Steven Jackson touchdown run. Ryan's first touchdown was a fourth-quarter play action post to Roddy White between double coverage. Ryan threw White open with a pass slightly behind the break point so White would veer away from the underneath coverage to make the catch in the middle of the end zone - a perfect throw with good arc for White to run under. Ryan's next touchdown was a two-yard score late in the game to Tony Gonzalez, who worked free from a holding penalty as Ryan flushed right and then hit the tight end. Atlanta then recovered an on-side kick and completed an 11-yard pass to Harry Douglas on a crossing route to get into the red zone to potentially take the lead. However, Ryan targeted Douglas again on a short in-cut, the cornerback Jermaine Brock drove on the ball, hit Douglas in the act of the catch, and the hit forced the ball skyward. Navorro Bowman caught the rebound at the san Francisco 11 and ran the ball up the sideline for an 89-yard score to seal the game. Ryan's final interception was a game-ending Hail Mary. Overall Ryan played good football this season with limited resources and White's improved health in this game demonstrated how much tougher this offense can be even with a mediocre line that allowed pressure in the pocket on a routine basis.
Week 17 vs CAR - This game epitomized the strengths and weaknesses of the Atlanta Falcons. The strength is Matt Ryan. Given even a modicum of time and a healthy star receiver, Ryan was efficient and productive. He repeatedly stepped into pressure and found receivers for big plays. His first touchdown was a third down pass to Jason Snelling on a circle route where he thread the need just inside a Thomas Davis hit on the back for a score in the red zone. Ryan's best play of the day was a 39-yard post pattern to a wide open Roddy White on safety Quentin Mikell. When Atlanta could operate the quick play action game, Ryan found White, Harry Douglas, and Tony Gonzalez in the gaps of Carolina's zone defense all over the field. Ryan did throw a pick-six deep in its own territory after DeAngelo Williams was stripped at the end of a long run because Harry Douglas broke inside and Ryan threw to the outside. Still, Ryan's positives buoyed this team and kept Atlanta in this game. However, the weakness of the Atlanta team is its offensive line. The unit allowed nine sacks in this game and four of these occurred in the red zone. Greg Hardy had four sacks on the day and by the time Atlanta was forced to double team Hardy in the second half, Carolina found ways to get pressure from the opposite side, including a sack from Charles Johnson and a safety blitz from Mike Mitchell. In the penultimate drive for Atlanta, the Falcons gave up consecutive sacks and on the final drive and down by one, Ryan drove Atlanta to the Carolina 43 in less than a minute's time but his center mistimed the snap, forced a massive loss, incurred a false start penalty, and it resulted in a 10-second runoff that cost Atlanta field goal range. Ryan has been the reason why Atlanta has had a number of close games, but the offensive line is the difference between Atlanta being a four-win team and a 10-win team. With Roddy White looking healthy - bad game today notwithstanding - Atlanta will remain a consistently productive passing attack.