As the depleted Atlanta Falcons get ready to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, eyes will be on Matt Ryan as he faces a level of adversity unlike anything he’s seen in his first five seasons.
Historically, Matt Ryan is as accomplished a young QB you’ve seen in the NFL. He’s set many NFL and franchise records in his six seasons as an NFL quarterback. But, we would be lying to ourselves if we believed the rest of the team hasn’t played a role in the success he’s had up until this point. Great teams win in this league, not just great QB’s alone. Mike Smith has said that when a team is winning, a coach and QB can be given too much credit and can also shoulder too much of the blame when losing.
The Falcons were under fire as they entered their bye week at 1-4. Right now, the team is looking at an uphill battle if they want to secure a playoff seed by season’s end. Heck, even if they were to turn things around and earn a wildcard spot –which isn’t out the realm of possibility I might add– they wouldn’t be able to do much with a below serviceable O-line and injuries on both sides of the ball. While many don’t question Matt Ryan’s ability to lead a team to victory, Ryan is facing a predicament that will take more than a 2-minute drive to overcome.
In his six years as an Falcon, Matt Ryan never had to carry a team this diminished of starting talent. Now, he’s faced with the task of doing so for eleven more games. The injury bug struck this team hard. Julio Jones and Kroy Biermann are both done for the year. D-Block leader Sean Weatherspoon is out until week 11 at the earliest. Roddy White is nursing a high-ankle sprain, while Steven Jackson and Asante Samuel recover from hamstring/thigh injuries. That’s a lot for one man to overcome…
But, regardless of the record at the end of the season, I think this will be a great learning experience for Ryan. He’s a “never say die” type of player that always puts his best foot forward in preparation for games. Although his competitive nature will certainly be tested, I expect nothing less than Ryan’s best effort on game day.
Ryan’s continued development will be interesting to watch for a few reasons. There are bound to be up n’ down type of games and I’m curious to see how he responds on the sideline. Up until this point you could say that Ryan was the young buck on a team full of veterans. Due to all the injuries, he’s now undoubtedly front and center of this Falcons’ team. He will have to be a lot more vocal than he has in the past in order to keep the team’s spirits high, similar to what Tom Brady is doing with a young offense in New England.
Ryan has been one of the few constants on the team when it comes to showing up. Now, he’s faced with the responsibility of making sure the rest of the team shows up. As Harry Douglas, Drew Davis, Kevin Cone, and Levine Toilolo look to step into new, expanded roles on the offense, Matt Ryan will have to instill confidence in them as they try to replace the irreplaceable production of Julio Jones and a 100% Roddy White.
Next up, the Falcons visit Tampa Bay to face a Buccaneers squad that’s down on their luck after releasing Josh Freeman. Still, I think it’s too much that we demand a victory. All we can ask for is that Ryan has his team motivated to fight for 4 quarters. It will take everything Ryan has spiritually, mentally and physically in order to step up to the task ahead of him.