Jumping off the Matt Ryan bandwagon? Daryl Johnston has a message for you.
“If they’re selling, I’ll buy their seat,” said the Fox analyst and former Dallas Cowboys fullback. “His intangibles are off the chart. He’ll be fine. It’s very difficult to find a quarterback, and the Falcons have a very, very good one. He’s a young guy who’s going to get better. Did he set the bar high last year? Absolutely. But what he’s going through now is completely normal. Peyton Manning went 3-13. Troy Aikman was 0-10. I’m not saying Matt Ryan is either one of those guys, but it’s normal to struggle.”
Johnston worked the Fox broadcast last week when Ryan threw two interceptions that played into the Falcons’ 28-19 loss at Carolina. He also watched the Falcons’ wins over San Francisco and Washington, and will work this week’s game against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands.
Ryan has thrown at least one interception in six straight games, and has 10 in the last five. But, no kidding: Johnston started laughing when I mentioned to him that some fans and media members had increasing concerns about the second-year quarterback.
“I’m sure Matt will be the first to tell you that he’d like to have back that fourth-quarter pass to Michael Jenkins,” Johnston said. “He didn’t have to throw that. It was a tw0-man route and Carolina was dropping seven into coverage and the ball sailed on him. But in the drive before that, when they went for the field goal that [Jason Elam] missed, Matt was great. He took what the defense gave him. He completed some short passes and moved the team down the field. That’s what surprised me so much about the interception.”
Surprisingly, Johnston downplayed the significance of the loss of running back Michael Turner, who is likely out for at least Sunday’s game against the Giants, and possibly longer, with an ankle sprain.
“As long as Jerious Norwood is healthy, it won’t be as big a deal,” he said (although Norwood has missed four straight games with a strained hip flexor). “Jason Snelling stepped into a difficult situation last week when Turner left and Norwood wasn’t 100 percent, and he did great. Obviously, they’re not the same style offense without Michael Turner. But Norwood and Snelling are pretty good and they can do some of the same things.”
Earlier today, I attempted to break down the NFC wild card picture. Johnston still views the Falcons as a potential playoff team but believes the race won’t be decided until the final week of the season
“Minnesota and New Orleans have elevated themselves,” he said. “The East [Division] will be a tough race and I think Arizona will win the West. But those two wild card spots are going to be difficult for anybody to clinch. I think it’s going down to the end.”