Here is a post from one of Blogging Dirty’s readers. It perfectly encompasses what my thoughts on Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons situation is right now:
A single poor performance defines neither a player nor his capabilities.
Last Sunday afternoon, the heavily favored Atlanta Falcons nearly lost at home against the Arizona Cardinals, due in large part to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, a front-running MVP candidate through Week 10, throwing five interceptions.
It should be noted that no quarterback in the modern era has ever thrown five interceptions in the regular season and gone on to win the Super Bowl. But a statistic like that shouldn’t factor into whether or not Atlanta wins it all.
Why? Because Matt Ryan is still a really good quarterback.
The performance was uncharacteristic of what we’ve seen this season from the leader of a 9-1 football team. Before Sunday’s self-inflicted implosion, he was one of the league’s most consistent throwers, giving away the ball just seven times in nine games.
According to Pro-football-reference.com, Ryan still leads the NFL in several key categories: completions (268), passing yards (3072), total offense (3024 yards), passing yards per game (307.2), fourth quarter comebacks (three), and game winning drives (five).
He’s fifth in pass attempts, third in completion percentage (an enviable 67.5%), and sixth in passing touchdowns, with a solid 20. By all their major quarterback metrics, FootballOutsiders.com ranks him as one of the five best players at his position (alongside the elite company of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning).
As was previously mentioned, no quarterback has had an outing as horrible as Ryan did (if based solely on the number of interceptions a QB has thrown) on Sunday and lived to win the season’s most important Game, but there are still two recent Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks who both fared almost as poorly as Ryan on their respective marches toward eventual Super Bowl trophies:
1. Eli Manning, November 25, 2007: Manning threw four interceptions in a 41-17, Week 12 home loss against the Minnesota Vikings. The New York Giants would of course overcome this late season debacle and eventually win the Super Bowl.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, October 26, 2008: Big Ben threw four interceptions in a 21-14 home loss against the Giants, months before the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated Kurt Warner’s Cardinals for their NFL leading sixth Super Bowl win.
Ryan’s five-interception game is alarming, but not even close to being a nail in the coffin for this team’s title chances. His overall play has been outstanding through the first 10 games, and to make something out of nothing wouldn’t be prudent.
Obviously, the essential components that form every Super Bowl champion stretch beyond a single position. The Falcons have an average defense and special teams unit, an awful running game (ranked 30 out of 32 teams by Football Outsiders), and a self-imposed postseason stigma that some franchises simply can’t shake.
Should they fail to win the Super Bowl this year, those factors should be the ones we look long and hard at, not Matt Ryan’s five-interception performance in a win back in Week 11.
Atlanta still has Julio Jones and Roddy White, arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL stretching on the outside, destroying opposing secondaries on any given play and giving defensive coordinators a “pick your poison” option regarding which one deserves the double team. They have Tony Gonzalez, still churning along as one of football’s most reliable red zone targets. And, most importantly, they boast a +5 turnover differential, good for fifth best in the league.
Ultimately, Ryan’s ability to overcome the Falcons’ struggles and heightens their positives is the most significant variable in whether or not Atlanta ends this season with their very first Super Bowl victory, or if the ongoing playoff disappointments continue for another year.