This one is on Matt Ryan, and Falcons may be in trouble

Everything went right for Matt Ryan in year one. Notsomuch in year two. (AP photo)

Everything went right for Matt Ryan in year one. Notsomuch now.

CHARLOTTE — There’s a problem with setting the bar so high in year one. When you run face first into the bar in year two, everybody notices.

Matt Ryan hasn’t necessarily been a spectacular crash this season. But he certainly hasn’t been the quarterback that most expected after a first season that saw him lead a seemingly flat-lined franchise to the playoffs. And yes — any doubts about whether something was wrong just ended.

The Falcons lost to the Carolina Sunday, 28-19. We can rationalize several reasons why this may have happened. Kicker Jason Elam botched a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. The defense crumbled yet again. Aliens abducted John Abraham.

But put this one on Ryan. He threw two interceptions — dreadful interceptions. The first came in the second quarter after the Falcons had closed to 14-10. It led to a Panthers’ touchdown drive just before the half that made it 21-10. The second was a game-killer — with 3:45 left from the Carolina 49,  and the Falcons trailing, 21-19.

Both came on the opening plays of drives. Both sailed high over a wide receiver, Michael Jenkins, who has long arms and stands 6-foot-4. Both were mistakes many of us were deluded into believing Ryan would not, could not commit with a game on the line.

This is a troubling transition. The franchise centerpiece just went from a quarterback who lately has struggled to win games to one who just lost one.

“There’s going to be things you have to learn along the way,” Ryan said later when asked about his drop in accuracy. “There’s a lot of tough teams you’re going against. I feel like I’m learning a bunch and continuing to get better. But I’ve just made some mistakes, and that’s gonna happen.

“I just made some throws that weren’t on point.”

Learning curves are normal for young quarterbacks. But could we have anticipated this curve would turn 180 degrees?

Ryan’s first four games: 66.7 percent completion percentage, seven touchdowns, two interceptions.

Ryan’s last five games: 54.9, seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions.

Why? That answer isn’t clear. If Ryan knows, he’s not saying.

“Different things come up week in and week out,” he said. “I’m young. I’ve got a long way to go, a lot of improving to do, and a lot of things to learn.  And I feel you do learn things in your second year that you don’t learn in your first. I’m trying to soak up everything I can.”

Soak this up: The Falcons are in trouble. They’re 5-4. That record certainly doesn’t scream they’re walking the Green Mile. But this  is a team that goes as the offense goes. It’s not a roster built for 13-10 wins.

But now look: Running back Michael Turner is out with an ankle sprain, which was significant enough to keep him out the last two and a half quarters Sunday. Ryan, the other key member of the offense, looks average (maybe). If he stays average, the offense is dead and the Falcons’ playoff hopes will sleep with it.

Coach Mike Smith declined to let offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey or quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave speak to the media. Smith and players came to Ryan’s defense. Everybody accepted blame, as you would expect.

Smith:  “I thought Matt’s play was just like the rest of the football team. We didn’t sustain the level of play we needed to be successful.”

Wide receiver Roddy White also said, “We didn’t lose this game because of Matt. We all just gave it away.”

But he offered one solid theory as to why Ryan’s production has fallen off.

“Teams have seen him now on tape for a whole year,” he said. “They’re playing to his strengths and weaknesses, and they’re doing a good job.”

If this is an aberration, we’re about to find out. Three of the next four games come against the New York Giants, Philadelphia and New Orleans. The season will be either saved or buried. And now we have to wonder if the bar for Ryan was set too high.

532 comments Add your comment

TerryTheFalconFan

November 15th, 2009
6:47 pm

We had 19 points

bob horner stayed hurt

November 15th, 2009
6:48 pm

good blog jeff…no whining here…you nailed it…we HAVE to beat the G-MEN next week…..it’s a must win….(you’re picking the G-Men on your Thursday predictions blog..) so I think the Falcons win….

Greg

November 15th, 2009
6:50 pm

Ask Matt why his throws have been consistently h-i-g-h (a very dangerous habit) for four weeks now. Something is definitely wrong. Otherwise, let’s be fair; we got beaten by a better team. They are very strong up front on offense, and we don’t have the rush tools to beat them, or to consistently stop their running game. Their two running backs are better than ours, as a package. Their two lead receivers are better than ours, as a package, OR individually. Their corners are much better. Overall their defensive backfield is better. Their QB is playing better. Justice was done today.

SirReal

November 15th, 2009
6:52 pm

I’m not buying the sophomore slump and I don’t like the fact the Ryan refuses to accept that it was his fault for blowing the game. The team is just saying all these things to the media but i guarantee you thats not how many of them feel internally. He needs to get it together. Plain and simple Jeff.

mike

November 15th, 2009
6:52 pm

way too negative considering this is just over the midway and we have played some really good teams. Overall Matt’s numbers arent terrible: 14 TDs and 12 ints–great? Certainly not. But ok. Players hit streaks–good and bad.

I have two major concerns and neither are Matt Ryan. One is the obvious: RB. If this Turner injury turns out bad, we may be in trouble. i’m seeing visions of Larry Johnson being brought in as a one year rental.

Second is the wr position. Outside Roddy and Gonzo are wrs are terrible. Jenkins has regressed and without harry douglass we have no adequate slot guy. I think a lot of the ints Matt is getting is partly due to him not having a helluva lot of faith in anyone but gonzo and white.

Regardless one bright spot is that Snelling is talented. I don’t think he is true stud. But definitely nice. And we still got seven games!

okeetee

November 15th, 2009
6:52 pm

…..Ryan didn’t lose this game….who ever called that stupid down field pass on first down when we only needed a field goal to take the lead with 4 minutes to go…shares a lot of the blame! Why not keep trickulating the ball down field like we were doing, killing the clock, letting our defense rest, and get into field goal position? If Ryan audibled that call and threw downfield THEN it was his fault. Otherwise, I blame the coaching staff for this loss!

Smitty'sTheMan

November 15th, 2009
6:53 pm

Jeff, do you know who was responsible for the play call on that last interception — Ryan or Mularkey? With more than three-and-a-half minutes to go and the ball at midfield, isn’t the objective to methodically eat the clock and hopefully score the winning TD/FG with minimum time remaining. Why would you throw the ball 30 yards downfield on the very first play from scrimmage? GOOD GRIEF !!

Dawgs Man

November 15th, 2009
6:53 pm

There were some coaching boo boos today as well. The biggest being calling a long pass with 3 minutes left and us on the 50 yard line where a few more yards would have got us in field goal range. And also Ryan had been trowing high all day and he did it again to kill us.

Phil

November 15th, 2009
6:54 pm

Just a few weeks ago the coaches said and I quote we are not concerned about Matt Ice throwing INT’S that along scared me. What coach this day and ages is not concerned with turnovers they cost games. I would not care if it was my superstar player give it up and find yoourself right beside me on the bench. Same OLD falcons with that mind set. maybe it’s not the player but the coaching staff. Get on Ryan for his leadership skills and attention to detail in the passing game.

Dawgs Man

November 15th, 2009
6:54 pm

Smith’s The Man. Looks like we were thinking the same thing at the same time.

KSEE

November 15th, 2009
6:55 pm

this L hurts…we were in position to win.

StuDawg

November 15th, 2009
6:56 pm

“The Falcons lost to the Carolina Sunday, 28-17.” Come on man, as a so-called reporter, shouldnt you at least report the score correctly? And as a writer, shouldn’t you proofread before you post on the World Wide Web?

willie

November 15th, 2009
6:57 pm

I agree that Ryan has struggled recently, but I agree with him that he is still learning. I love the way that he seems to let misfortune roll off his back, just like he does with good fortune. I want that kind of short-term memory in my QB. This was never our year. We are building toward something. The losses of Harry Douglas, P. Jerry, W. Moore, B. Williams, etc. have been brutal. Everyone has some injuries, but we have had more than normal. I am hoping for a 9 or 10 win season with much better things to come in 2010!

The Dogfighter Returns

November 15th, 2009
6:58 pm

maybe all the money and fame has gone to his head, but can you blame him.

he can always go home and count his money.

maybe has hear so much about his arm strength that he wants to prove he can throw deep.

MR

November 15th, 2009
6:58 pm

Ok……..The Panthers tried to give us the game and we didn’t want it. —–Question? Should we be concerned about MATT RYAN? Just wondering.——-

Can you say "5 - 7"...

November 15th, 2009
6:59 pm

…after the next 3 weeks? So much for back to back winning seasons! The futility that is the Atlanta Falcons continues – 43 years and counting!

Matt Ryan

November 15th, 2009
7:02 pm

Guys,
I sucked today….and the week before….and the week before…..and the week before that. My arm is a noodle and I’m raping the Falcons for millions right now. I’m scared when the pressure comes and I look cowardly when I come to the line. I am thankful for the hype you guys gave me b/c thats what I’m thriving off of right now. Sorry that I dont admit that I blow games. I’m still learning remember?

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 15th, 2009
7:02 pm

IMO Matty’s puckering up. One bad pass or drop and he thinks he has to throw darts. He’ll study his way out of it but since his trip to the playoffs, his weaknesses have been exposed and he has yet to truely adjust. Gonzo’s not a check down, he’s his primary target.

Go over the top everyonce in a while just to keep’em honest might be a start.

bob horner stayed hurt

November 15th, 2009
7:04 pm

Can you say “5 – 7″… you’re a “panicker”…you probably stood in line 2hrs for a H1N1 flu shot….

Mr Charlie

November 15th, 2009
7:06 pm

Geez, what a bunch of whiners and doomers. In the NFL, teams are never as good, or as bad as they seem. You just take em one week at a time. So they blew it today, it happens in the NFL.

BIOMASS

November 15th, 2009
7:08 pm

The JO-DO is going to be a ghost town real fast if this continues.

Matt Ryan

November 15th, 2009
7:09 pm

Yep, I sucked today, and the week before, and the week before, and the week before, but the weeks before that I was pretty good. And, even as bad as I was today, I did throw one 4th Quarter TD pass, and that is one more than MV7 did in 16 games in 06. And even if I suck from her on out, and we finish 7-9, I will match what MV7 did that year too.

Traver

November 15th, 2009
7:09 pm

THe whole key here is adjustments. The league has adjusted to Matt. Now Matt has to adjust again to the league or it will get ugly. Totally different sport/situation. But that is sort of what happened to Francoeur. Did great early and pitchers adjusted. He was slow to adjust back to them. Had some failures. Pressured mounted and he abruptly rode it out of town.

Matt Ryan

November 15th, 2009
7:10 pm

Maybe if I ran in reverse for 32 yards and then fumbled the all, yall would like me more.

Dawg Nation

November 15th, 2009
7:11 pm

Hey Smitty at least you got to beat up Deangelo Hall last week. Maybe if you spent less time showing off your muscles and concentrated more on coaching this team the annual Falcon demise could be stopped.

Eric C.

November 15th, 2009
7:12 pm

Jeff…you wrote a great column for us long-time, jaded Falcon fans. Thanks.

This season will go 9-7 at best…there is absolutely no way that the Falcons will win at NYG with their current problems, NYG coming off of a bye week, and NYG having lost 4 straight. That means the Falcons will most likely have to finish up 5-1 to get into the playoffs…and with games against Philadelphia, NO, and @NYJ on the horizon…that will be a tall order.

Unfortunately, I think we are seeing the real Matt Ryan. He NEEDS a great defense and good special teams to win. He will never be close to a Joe Montana or Peyton Manning. He can be an above average, solid QB, but the Falcons better plan on improving the defense if they are going to be a consistent playoff contender, and they need to scrap their heralded conditioning program because it sure ain’t working this year.

Everett Nelson

November 15th, 2009
7:12 pm

I guess Matt Ryan is going through the dreaded “sophmore slump”. we all knew it was going to happen but the question was when? you can’t beat Fate. make no mistake i do not blame Matt Ryan for the lost today. but i will blame you sport writers for setting that bar to high. don’t forget he still is learning the system and hasn’t figure out the pass Defenses like Manning, Brady or Brees has.. that’s why this team should’ve load up on some D this year. just in case your offense doesn’t play up to the standards your expect them too

Right now Ryan needs support to stick with him when he down. because he is a young QB which means his confidence is hurting. someone needs to sit him down for a talk. make him understand his team fully supports him and still believes i him. he is not letting no one but himself his fans are still by his side to give him that extra support

CJ

November 15th, 2009
7:13 pm

One word: Elam.

Michael Turner

November 15th, 2009
7:13 pm

At the beginning of the season, I sucked, teams came to stop me, and Ice carried the team. Now they are trying to put pressure in Ice, and it opens up the running lanes for me to run like I have been, so I have carried the team. See, it is a team sport, and regardless of how all your racist haters are prejudice against Ice because of his skin color, we on the Falcons love him.

Vick Supporter

November 15th, 2009
7:14 pm

Ryan: ““There’s a lot of tough teams you’re going against. I feel like I’m learning a bunch and continuing to get better. But I’ve just made some mistakes, and that’s gonna happen”

Ryan: ““I’m young.”

What!!!!!!!!!!!! If Vick ever said that, he would have been KILLED IN THE PAPERS…yet the “fans” here still make excuses for him.

I have to give the writers credit….even though it took 5 games for them to do so, they have finally been critical of Ryan. They are a part of the culprits (more so Schultz than Bradley) that have annointed this guy as the next P.Manning.

I have consistenly said that Ryan will be a good but not great QB. All of the things that I’ve said about his game has come true…especially the arm strength. The guy simply can’t throw the deep ball or drill a ball into tight coverage. When he tried, the ball sailed over guys heads. I will continue to get bashed on here, but for those of you that know football see that I’ve been telling the truth. Its not about race for me….I simply believe that Vick is a better QB. F all of the numbers and qb ratings….Vick Won Games. On his back if he had to.

Bring on the bashing and some of your racial comments that you make to me on here…you’re just making yourselves look stupid.

“Vick will rise again”

Fair and Balanced

November 15th, 2009
7:14 pm

As Michael Turner goes…so goes the Falcons offense. Matt never led this team, he’s a ok game manager…it was ALWAYS Michael Turner that was doing the leading, but rose-colored glasses by a media so determined to MAKE him a hall of famer that they couldn’t/won’t admit that it was ALWAYS Turner.

Vick Supporter

November 15th, 2009
7:15 pm

CJ

November 15th, 2009
7:13 pm
One word: Elam.
———————————

You people blame the kicker, LMAO. What a bunchy of losers,lol.

CJ

November 15th, 2009
7:15 pm

It seems to me that “Fair and Balanced” didn’t watch the game.

Doyle Hargraves

November 15th, 2009
7:15 pm

Ryan has probably been hanging out too much in Buckhead. Maybe after the season Brett Favre can do an intervention with him.

woodie

November 15th, 2009
7:16 pm

Where is the guy that refers to Matt Ryan as Noodle Arm? He must be licking his chops after this performance. At this point I will take a winning season to get the monkey off our backs for not ever having back to back winning seasons. Go Falcons!

JeJe

November 15th, 2009
7:16 pm

Right before that 2nd interception, I said “Come on, Ryan. Stay composed.” As soon as he threw that pass, I knew it was trouble.

WTF.
JUST RUN THE BALL
JESUS

CJ

November 15th, 2009
7:16 pm

Not “you people.” Me.

bigdave

November 15th, 2009
7:17 pm

are those Matt Ryan quotes or some analyst from ESPN… he’s talking like a psychologist… like he’s not trying to lose self confidence… as a QB what are you doing fundamentally wrong? are you seeing the field? going through your progressions?

The Grinch

November 15th, 2009
7:17 pm

The sky isn’t falling yet, but this trend is disturbing. It would be one thing if he was under pressure all game, but he had plenty of time. He was just bad.

However, let us not forget we’re missing about a third of our starters. If this team was anywhere NEAR full strength they could compensate.

Ed

November 15th, 2009
7:19 pm

I was at the game today and there’s no question…both interceptions hurt, the missed field goal hurt and not having Turner really hurt. I believe that if Michael Turner is in the game, the play-calling is completely different. That said. he wasn’t and it fell to Ryan to lead them. It appeared (to me anyway) that almost all of his throws were a foot off the mark, either high or to the side. I was thinking playoffs at the beginning of the season, now I’m just hoping we break the streak.

wayne

November 15th, 2009
7:19 pm

WATCH THE EYES. THEY NEVER LIE. HE IS PLAYING SCARED. NO CONFIDENCE.

Michael Turner

November 15th, 2009
7:19 pm

Vick was a great QB, probably the most exciting player in the NFL when he was in his prime, but he did not develop. Do you realize, the guy did not throw 1 4th Quarter TD pass in 2006, his last year in the NFL.

And as far as what we would do if he said “I’m young”, probably nothing. As a matter of fact, I never saw Vick take responsibility for anything, he just flipped off his critics.

Could you imagine what you would do if Ice scrambled backwards for 30 yards, and then got the ball swatted out of his hands?

bigdave

November 15th, 2009
7:20 pm

hopefully we get it together… we have a tough road ahead. NY has lost i believe 3 in a row, and coming off a bye. im sure we’ll be getting the “challenge flag” this week from the guys at ESPN. a win in the Meadowland’s could be huge…

Eric C.

November 15th, 2009
7:20 pm

Jeff and CJ…timing was off between the snapper and holder on that missed kick by Elam. Sure, that was a brutal miss, but the interceptions were the worst evils in this game.

Vick supporter, Vick has not been a Falcon for a long time…and really blew every chance given to him. Most Falcon fans believed in him and wanted him to succeed…but the recent struggles by Ryan absolutely do not make me or other fans want Vick back. It is unfortunate that Vick threw his career under the bus, and there is nothing the Falcons can do about it now.

Vick Supporter

November 15th, 2009
7:22 pm

Everett Nelson: “make no mistake i do not blame Matt Ryan for the lost today. but i will blame you sport writers for setting that bar to high”

One question….Did you do/say this foor Vick when he was here?

For you to blame Bradley and Schultz for this is absolutely insane,lol. 95% of the people on these blogs “annointed” Ryan also.

if you’re a man, you will admit it. Be a man and admit that your QB sucks right now and its not because of everyone else.

It’s like I’ve been saying…..you take that running game away from Ryan and he CAN”T win the game for you.

It’s being prove right before your very eyes :)

bigdave

November 15th, 2009
7:22 pm

my goodness… DC beat Denver…

Pete

November 15th, 2009
7:23 pm

Listening to balcks “support” Vick just goes to show they will support a balck guy no matter what. DO you need more examples, Ray Nagin, Kwame Kilpatrick, Marion Berry, Charlie Rangel, Do I need to keep going? I guess it does not much intelligence to support someone just because they are the same color as you are

20 wins in a row

November 15th, 2009
7:23 pm

Matt Ryan is so overpaid it isn’t funny. He isn’t the only one but this guy comes out of College and they give him a ridiculous contract without even playing one game in the NFL. They should have learned something with the Vick situation, if this guy turns out to be a bust the Falcons are into him for a lot of money.

NFL

November 15th, 2009
7:25 pm

Ryan is so overpaid he doesn’t have much to work for anymore.

Keeping it real.

November 15th, 2009
7:25 pm

Vick WAS a great QB, but it was more do to his running ability than his understanding of the game and ability to find the open reciever. Hence, a completion percentage in the 50% range, and the 74 career passer rating. However, he slowed down in 05 and 06, and lost that advantage, but he never grew as a passer. Now, 2 years later, he can’t even beat our Kevin Kolb. And you really think he can play QB better than Ryan? For the record, the best QB the falcons ever had was Chris Chandler.