2017 Grade: .609

2017 3rd Down: .630

Week 1 at Chicago: The Bears did two things that almost no one did to the Falcons in 2016. Chicago pressured Matt Ryan, and kept everything in front of them. The MVP only needed one play to win the game for his team, however, as he delivered a three-point play (highest grade awarded on any given play) with an 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper. Ryan was sharp throughout the game exceling in play-pass, in-breaking routes, and subtle pocket movement to buy time.

Week 2 vs. Green Bay: Matt Ryan and the Falcons offensive line struggled on third down in this game (1 points on 7 drop backs), but it didn’t matter. Ryan registered just one negative play out of his 29 total drop backs. Atlanta is playing with a shorter field than other teams because of their ability to carve up chunks of yardage on any given play. Ryan’s patience and vision for routes opening up, along with his pinpoint accuracy, allows him to drop passes into the bucket anywhere on the field. His work as a play-action passer is a sheer joy to watch.

Week 3 at Detroit: Two of Ryan’s three interceptions were on tipped passes that were fairly decently located. Still, it wasn’t his sharpest game. His worst miss actually came on a third down completion on the verge of the red-zone. The lack of zip forced the receiver to slow down, preventing YAC, and costing the Falcons a first down. Still, Ryan’s worst games are better than most quarterback’s good games.

Week 4 vs. Buffalo: The Atlanta offense sorely missed Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu at the end of the game. The drops were crucial, but that incidental turnovers were back breaking. All three of Ryan’s give aways could be attributed to other forces (poor receiver play and bad officiating.) Still, Ryan made enough plays for his team to win the game, but they ultimately came up short.

Week 6 vs. Miami: Ryan played like his usual-self in this game, the Dolphins defense is just a juggernaut that no one really knows about yet. He was on time, accurate, threw around near-perfect coverage a few times and hit the deep ball. His interception to close out the game is not a negative play on the QB, but rather an outstanding defensive play.

2016: Details Over Dynamics

Despite a learning curve that spanned the entire of summer into early October, the Falcons offense evolved into an unstoppable machine engineered by Matt Ryan. By the end of the year, all cylinders were firing in perfect synchronicity as Ryan distributed the wealth beautifully.

Kyle Shanhan’s offense, conducted by Ryan, created opportunities for the 10-year vet to get the ball into the hands of his talented cast of playmakers.

Ryan’s attention to detail is so consistent that it squeezes the boring elements out of, well, how mundane it should be. His ball handling on play-fakes is astute. His mechanics never waiver and he always looks to set his base for a platform to drive the ball to the sidelines or down the field.

This allows Atlanta to run wide splits on the perimeter opening things up inside for the Falcons ultra-athletic running backs, tight ends and slot receivers.

Once Ryan’s accuracy caught up to his PhD level understanding of the offense, this high-powered unit took off and wasn’t brought to a halt until the final 15 minutes of the Super Bowl.

The trajectory on his long balls is rivaled only by Russell Wilson. He arcs them high and out in front of the receiver often hitting Taylor Gabriel, Aldrick Robinson or Julio Jones in stride. He throws the ball to open areas of the field and plays off the backs of trailing defenders as well as anyone.

Ryan’s PhD specializes in holding defenders with his eyes, subtle pocket manipulation to create passing lanes and throwing the football with better anticipation than anyone in the league. When Julio Jones is going to turn a defender around, Ryan has delivered the ball three yards prior to Jones’ break freeing the all-pro up for some explosive plays.

Ryan’s weaknesses are few and far between, but he’s a little too safe for my tastes. Atlanta ran play-action rollout misdirection frequently and sometimes he’s late to get the ball to the crossing route which would open up a big play.

Although he will scramble, he’s not a dynamic runner and does have to give up on some plays with immediate pressure. His ability to stare down the gun-barrel and drop dimes in the face of pressure allows the offense to run slow-developing routes – this offense eats up yards in chunks.

Matt Ryan won the MVP and it was well-deserved – he was nearly flawless (lowest mistake percentage of all QBs.) It’ll be a challenge for him to overcome the loss of Kyle Shanahan, but I have little doubt that he can handle turnover and pick up the slack.

Stat Sheet

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