On the whole, any NFL team should have balance when it comes to offense. Of course, there are outliers but it does not make it any less true. Looking at the Atlanta Falcons under Matt Ryan, it certainly feels one-sided. From 2008-2020, Ryan started 205 games under center for the Atlanta Falcons. In those years, the Falcons have finished in the top 10 in rushing just twice: 2008 (second) and 2016 (fifth). Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons went to the Super Bowl in the latter year.
Atlanta Falcons rushing woes under Ryan
However, in six of Ryan’s first thirteen years, or 46.8% of his games, the Falcons have finished below the Top 20 in the NFL in rushing yards. In particular, the years in which it took place were the last three years of the two previous head coaching tenures. From 2012-2014, the Atlanta Falcons finished 29th, 32nd, and 24th respectively under Mike Smith. Meanwhile, in Dan Quinn’s final three years, the run game was 27th (2018 & 2020) and 30th (2019).
The Atlanta Falcons are implementing a new offensive philosophy
New Falcons head coach Arthur Smith wants to have a balanced offense. Matt Ryan and that right arm can rejoice. Ryan led the league in passing attempts in 2020 with 626. In Smith’s first game as head coach, the team had 124 total rushing yards. On one hand, this may not seem like a whole lot of yards on the ground. Seeing that this Atlanta Falcons team averaged just 95.8 yards rushing per game last year, it is an improvement.
Entering year 14, Matt Ryan has proven his worth to this offense. The most compelling evidence of this point is his passing yards. Of his thirteen years, Ryan ended the year in the top 10 in passing 11 years. The only years he did not were his first two in the league. Overall, in eight of those 11 years, he finished in the top five.
Moving forward, to save Matt Ryan’s arm and his entire body, Smith and the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff must emphasize the run. With this purpose in mind, Ryan can play longer and, maybe, lead the turnaround for this franchise once again.