With strong pass protection, Matt Ryan is thriving

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in San Diego Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in San Diego Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

FLOWERY BRANCH — For Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter it was scene out of a bad horror movie on “Monday Night Football.”

And he was not even talking about the phantom “touchdown” at the end of the game. He fixated on Seattle’s defense unleashing a pass-rushing flurry that netted eight sacks in first half.

Koetter, hasn’t had to worry about that, but he had some empathy for Green Bay coordinator Tom Clements. Through three games, the Falcons’ pass protection has been nearly impeccable as quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked only four times.

“To have four sacks after three games [is pretty good], our goal is to keep under one a game,” Koetter said.

An example of how the Falcons have been in sync in pass protection occurred Sunday on Ryan’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones in the second quarter.

The offense properly diagnosed San Diego’s safety blitz. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers stepped up to block Pro Bowl safety Eric Weedle.

Right guard Garrett Reynolds and right tackle Tyson Clabo handled a stunt well, and the Falcons successfully blocked a blitz. They gave Ryan enough time to toss the pass to Jones, who was on a fade route to the corner to the end zone.

The throw and catch were a thing of beauty, but neither would have been possible without the pass protection.

“In that situation, they probably have one more than we can protect, and the thing is, if we can hold up just long enough, we feel like we can get the ball out and put the ball in a space for our guys to make plays,” Ryan said. “That’s one of the things that a lot of people never see, but those are the things that make those plays.”

Here’s how Koetter saw that key play.

“Not only Jacquizz, they were in a safety blitz on that side,” Koetter said. “Matt recognized it. Jacquizz picked up the safety. Clabo and Garrett Reynolds both adjusted from the normal scheme based on the blitz. Where we would have been one short, we had everybody picked up.”

The Falcons gave up 26 sacks and 84 quarterback hits last season. The team drafted offensive linemen with their first two picks, but the rookies couldn’t unseat any of the veterans and are being groomed by offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn.

The offensive line gave up one sack to Denver, which has talented rushers in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Left tackle Sam Baker and Clabo have been strong and stout thus far.

“We talk about pass protection being everybody’s job,” Koetter said. “It’s the offensive line protecting, and they are doing a really nice job now. They’ve worked really hard at it and it’s showing.

“Also, the fact that Matt is getting the ball out on time, and when we are getting blitzed, the hot receivers are where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be there.”

After the beating that Ryan took last season, he worked on his strength conditioning in the offseason. The quarterback hits took their toll last season. With the added muscle, he hopes to be stronger at the end of the season.

With the beefed up pass protection, Ryan is off to a great start. His quarterback rating of 114 is tops in the NFL, and he has completed 77 of 107 passes (72 percent) for 793 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.

“Our guys have done a great job,” Ryan said. “They’ve worked their tails off up front. I think part of it is really having five guys who have played together a bunch. They understand each other’s calls and work well with each other.”

The offensive line credits Ryan, who is running more, with making their job a little easier.

“A big part of it is that we’re able to get favorable looks and what we want a lot of times, especially when we are in the no-huddle package,” left guard Justin Blalock said. “He’s putting us in good positions to see blitzes coming.”

The linemen know that Ryan doesn’t need a whole lot of time.

“Anytime that we can shore things up and give Matt just a split second more, he’s very, very accurate,” Blalock said. “We have been able to keep people out of his face and keep him upright for the most part.”

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71 comments Add your comment

RonG_DieHeartFalconsFan

September 28th, 2012
5:40 am

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

September 28th, 2012
6:01 am

So far this year the O-Line has shown significant improvement over last year. Even Sam Baker has been balling. :-) . I had hoped that one of the rookies would have replaced Baker but he’s been okay.

The Real Falcon

September 28th, 2012
6:46 am

Dude is actually completing passes on the run! Who knew?

Blue Fender

September 28th, 2012
7:32 am

What is that stench in the NFC South basement? Oh yeah, that’s the smell of defeat (i.e. sAints).

Samuel

September 28th, 2012
7:55 am

I still want to see the O- line against a team like the Giants, because they can bring pressure with their front four. Also I’ll get a chance to see, if Matt can slide and move in the pocket and make plays under duress. But kudos to the offensive line they are playing very well.

David

September 28th, 2012
8:10 am

It’s time for tip toe Turner to step up and play like a man.

gary smith

September 28th, 2012
8:11 am

This shows you what an offensive line can do for a very good qb…give him time and he will pick you apart. Ryan gets it and is making quick reads and getting the ball out. Last year many times when he dropped back the defense was already on him….Pat Hill deserves a lot of credit.

Mikey

September 28th, 2012
8:28 am

The O-Line was the weak link until this year. They are looking so good and getting better every week. Way to go guys! I know it took a lot of hard work and focus to get to that point. It is nice to see this offense firing on all cylinders. GO FALCONS! YOU ARE RISING UP!

Answer this

September 28th, 2012
8:31 am

This is the group that everyone has had questions about. We have not heard many of the OLine names called during the first three games of the season and we all know that this is a good thing! Keep grading up front boys because if you do this will be the MVP of the season! All of them. Lets go NATION!

Ed

September 28th, 2012
8:35 am

I’m impressed with the way the offensive line has played thus far. Sam Baker even is playing well. I hope the offense gets started fast the way they did in KC and San Diego. This is our first 1:00 PM start at home, it’s also a great chance for Matt Ryan to run his no-huddle to perfection against a Carolina team that is in disarray right now.

BamaGuy

September 28th, 2012
8:55 am

“Seen” sure is SEEN around here much anymore?

BamaGuy

September 28th, 2012
8:56 am

Isn’t ….sorry for typo

Remarkable

September 28th, 2012
9:16 am

Ryan is throwing like he did in his first season when we could all see his potential. The only problem i see is that it looks like they have worked so hard on pass protection that they have not prepared for run blocking to the same degree. We can all say that Turner has to step it up (And that may be the case.) but he has to have the holes to run through if he is going to put up numbers.
I think that as the season goes along other teams will be concentrating on Matt and the passing game and that will lend itself to more opportunities in the running game.

[...] to Original Content From Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog): read more Related Articles Share About Author [...]

Falcon Red

September 28th, 2012
9:21 am

I wish we had made these coaching changes a couple of years ago…
They do deserve a lot of the kudos!

Saints R.E.A.M.

September 28th, 2012
9:22 am

Too bad your 3 wins have an asterisk next to them due to the replacement refs. No more running of illegal pick plays & screen passes where receivers are blocking before the pass is completed…..guess you’ll have to earn it now……we shall see….

pot to kettle

September 28th, 2012
9:28 am

we see how well the saints are doing now that they have to earn it!!!!!!! I would not throw stones. it just makes you look foolish!

JosephDaKoolest a.k.a No Answer For Julio

September 28th, 2012
9:29 am

Great article and great comments. I love the way this offensive line has been playing this season. We have a long way to go but we are playing very well up front. I have been saying this for a couple of years our problem wasn’t Matt Ryan, Mike Mularky or Mike Smith. It was the offensive line. Now that the offensive line is playing well Matt Ryan has more confidence and can make quick and accurate decisions. And Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter do not have to be conservative with leads because they know the O-line will hold up. Great move on hiring Dirk and Patt Hill great call by the ATL staff. Loved the hiring of Patt Hill when I heard about it. Lets Go Falcons!!!! The Real A-Town Got Your Back!!!!!!

Falcontide

September 28th, 2012
9:39 am

What really helps as well is the fact that the defense has no idea what the offense is doing. Malarkey’s boring tired offense is no longer here. The offense keeps the defense guessing.

Damage Inc.

September 28th, 2012
9:39 am

Saints REAM- that’s all you got? Really? I suggest you worry about the second disaster affecting NOLA in recent years. I would say to take a vicadin for your pain but I here’s there’s a shortage of them down there.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

September 28th, 2012
9:42 am

I apologize for my past behavior.

Konzie

September 28th, 2012
9:43 am

Can anybody comment on Konz? Haven’t heaerd his name at all. I thought he was to be a stud.

JONESBORO SLIM

September 28th, 2012
9:49 am

@Remarkable

“but he has to have the holes to run through if he is going to put up numbers”

You and I must be the only ones who bring out that fact “how can Turner run through a closed door” .

GregKennesaw

September 28th, 2012
9:57 am

Saints REAM, 3-0 vs 0-3 better bring back the bounty!

GregKennesaw

September 28th, 2012
9:59 am

Saints have to face a pissed off Rogers in Green Bay, can you say 0-4…..

REAMing aints

September 28th, 2012
10:01 am

The last act of a desperate fan is invoking replacement refs as an excuse. The aints who troll this site eventually invoke the super bowl “win” to justify how great they think they are. Do you realize the rest of the league, players, fans, all see that as the least respected super bowl “win” in history? You’re the tonya harding of the nfl! The only way you won that Minnesota playoff was to injure your own best product from the area, Brett Farve. How long do you think you’re “team” would have lasted if another team payed a low life player to take out drew brees’ knees for $10,000? You wouldn’t have won a game the rest of the year after that. No one did it cause no else would sink that low! But you did. You couldnt wait to take out a player. THE WORST TEAM IN THE NFL’s HISTORY WAS THE 2009 aints! You think the league feels lousy about the Seahawks right now, imagine how they feel about a team that intentionally cheated and tried to injure players! Any aints fan who says they have a super bowl “win” is fooling themselves.You have a Tonya Harding Memorial Trophy. Go somewhere else and try and chew someone else’s ear off you Tyson wanna be.

mountain_jim

September 28th, 2012
10:20 am

trolls sure are well fed here.

Tfalcon

September 28th, 2012
10:23 am

Man He is a idiot for sure,seems like he would be more concerned about
his aint’s

[...] Koetter is still not happy with four sacks given up in three games. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the team goal was under one sack per [...]

Falcon James

September 28th, 2012
10:37 am

The Tonya Harding of the NFL!!! LMAO, now that is FUNNY!

The difference in the pass protection is night and day over where we were this time last year. I think Baker had already amassed 4 or 5 holding penalties by the 3rd game. The Falcon have stood up to the test of 2 really good defenses and 1 average defense. These guys have turned it up a notch.

One word about the Saint. You are OhFur. Get out the paper bag. It shouldn’t be long before we start seeing them on Sports Center!

D man

September 28th, 2012
11:16 am

All I know is I love what I have been seeing on Sunday. Falcons look great and I can’t wait til the next game. Go FALCONS!!!

Chirp

September 28th, 2012
11:55 am

A tale of two cities that reminds us how important coaches are. Koetter brings new life to what seemed to be a mediocre, and sometimes worn-out, O-line, while Payton’s loss has left aints w/o their real leader. It now looks like Brees got way too much credit for that offense’s power. And it now looks like Baker et al. can play a little.

welikebaseball2

September 28th, 2012
12:09 pm

“Asterisk” wins…hahaha…the talk sore losers are made of…LOL!

[...] Journal-Constitution Click here for full article [...]

Saints Getting R.E.A.M.E.D

September 28th, 2012
12:32 pm

Upgrading from paper to plastic bags this year.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 28th, 2012
1:14 pm

Konzie – He didn’t beat out Garrett Reynolds. He played some at center against San Diego late.

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
1:41 pm

O Line is rockin’………..!!!

What’s Ray Edwards excuse?

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
1:46 pm

David

September 28th, 2012
8:10 am

It’s time for tip toe Turner to step up and play like a man.
____________________________________________

That 4th quarter 18 yard run around left end last week was a thing of beauty. Haven’t seen Turner
move like that in years.

……………………………………….***RISE UP***

Saints R.E.A.M.

September 28th, 2012
1:47 pm

You can call it whatever type of Sbowl you wish! We won it and you can only wish to have won one. any fan crying about bounties are babies! It’s football and getting hurt is a casualty of the game. No Saint player intentionally hurt anyone and if our opponents thought we were trying to injure and did nothing about it than tough….go cry with Matty Melted ice…buzz no one cares. It’s all overblown by the league. The same league that saw the refs steal a game from Greenbay and then release a statement that the proper call was made.

Idiot fans like you buy whatever you want…you’ll be crying about something else this season and ill be right here!!! Lots of football left chumps.

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
1:52 pm

mountain_jim

September 28th, 2012
10:20 am

trolls sure are well fed here.
_______________________

Don’t feed the trolls……..!!!

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
2:03 pm

Tonya Harding Memorial Trophy………….that’s a keeper……..!!!

The Big Fat Blogger

September 28th, 2012
2:11 pm

LOL… Sounds like we have an angry Aint Fan in the building, Aint’s R.E.A.M…. Go cry to Goodell, the league is done feeling sorry for your pitiful team….

SCFalcon

September 28th, 2012
2:12 pm

This is 2012, the only choice the Ain’t fans have is plastic bags to hide their identity at games.

Make sure to strap them on tight!

44counter

September 28th, 2012
2:15 pm

So the replacement refs helped the Birds to 3-0 but could only muster a 0-3 for da sAINTS…….am I not understanding arithmetic?? :shock:

Paddy

September 28th, 2012
2:45 pm

Saints REAM…….The Falcons were able to win 3 w/ replacement refs. Should all teams not be 3-0 now bcause of the replacement refs? Thats the correct answer if we follow your logic!

welikebaseball2

September 28th, 2012
2:47 pm

Bounties or no bounties…past titles or no past titles…three games into THIS season, the Aints are winless & the Falcons are undefeated. Bwahahahahaha!

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
2:47 pm

Saints R.E.A.M.
September 28th, 2012
1:47 pm
You can call it whatever type of Sbowl you wish! We won it and you can only wish to have won one. any fan crying about bounties are babies! It’s football and getting hurt is a casualty of the game. No Saint player intentionally hurt anyone and if our opponents thought we were trying to injure and did nothing about it than tough….go cry with Matty Melted ice…
*************************************************
Matty Melted ice……….wow, tough words from someone who supports a team that wears a pansy
lily on their helmet.

Nobody’s crying about your bounty program, you cheated, you got caught. Nobody wll ever be able
to convince me that the hit on Curt Warner wasn’t an attempt to collect a bounty. Your Caints are the arm pit of the NFL, their fans a sphincter muscle surrounded by a dark void.

Just think about it, how bad are you gonna feel when the NFL Atlanta Falcons NFC South Champions 2012 are playing in Super Bowl XLVII in your house……….that’ll be our 2nd win in your house this year!!!

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
2:52 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23l5oR9UO8k

…………..in case you want to re-lve that hit on Curt Warner……..I mean it ain’t like you got anything else.

Chirp

September 28th, 2012
2:55 pm

Bluster aside, anybody who is willing to support an immoral position in order to rationalize his team’s record has to be a real fan. Hats off to a fan who would have stuck by his guys, saying that it’s only part of the game, if Warner had been maimed.

warfalcon

September 28th, 2012
3:12 pm

lets go FALCONS WE NEED THIS WIN.