Falcons are looking special, and it starts with Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan says he feels more confident than ever, and it shows in his performance. (AP photo)

Matt Ryan threw three more touchdown passes Sunday and seems to have taken his play to a new level this season. (AP photo)

SAN DIEGO – The common refrain in football is that the quarterback gets too much credit when everything is going right for a team and too much blame it’s circling the drain. So let’s start with this: The Falcons aren’t 3-0 just because Matt Ryan seems to have morphed into Roger Staubach.

A defense that lost its best cover cornerback (Brent Grimes) in Week 1 forced four more turnovers and made the San Diego Chargers look anemic Sunday (three points). Ryan has a receiving corps that enables him to alter his targets (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez) the way others laugh and change aim in a boardwalk shooting gallery (ducks, birds, wildebeest-looking safeties). There also is an obvious resilience about a team that bodyslams Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on a Monday night, then travels to the West Coast in a short week and humiliates a pretty good 2-0 team on its home field.

But it all starts with the quarterback.

The Falcons dismembered the San Diego Chargers 27-3, and Ryan was the centerpiece. He threw for 208 yards and three touchdowns in a 20-0 first half, after which almost everybody stopped paying attention. All of those Chargers fans who had claimed about a local TV blackout suddenly felt thankful.

Included in Sunday’s first half: Ryan, without even a semblance of a running game, engineered a 17-play, 96-yard touchdown drive in a rare late-summer heat wave that led center Todd McClure to say: “I’ve never had a feeling like that. I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to pass out at any minute.”

Fortunately, the touchdown at the end was not a mirage. Neither was Ryan. He competed 30 of 40, which doesn’t account for a couple of drops and throwaways and a touchdown negated by a penalty. He has led the offense to 11 touchdown drives (eight thrown) in three games. He looks better and more confident in Year 5 than he did in 1, 2, 3 or 4 (not that he was bad before).

There is an edge to his game. There is no hesitation before his decisions, no happy feet in the pocket, not a hiccup in his delivery. He is finding ways to elude pressure, even in tight spaces and when the protection is collapsing around him.

Gonzalez said, “He’s really coming into his own. I think a lot of it has to do with maturity and his wanting to be one of the best, and [offensive coordinator] Dirk [Koetter] coming in and simplifying things.”

Ryan threw incomplete on his first third-down attempt of the game. His next nine passes on third down were completed. Eight went for first downs, one for a touchdown.

Who does that?

“When it’s third and long and we keep getting first downs, you know he’s doing something special,” tackle Tyson Clabo said.

Ryan is not big on talking about himself. But when asked about his confidence level whether his game had ascended to the next level, he didn’t hesitate.

“I feel as confident as I ever have,” he said. “I think a lot of that has to do with experience — having good experience[s] and bad experience[s], and now realizing that I can do it. I can make the plays we need to make in order to win. And confidence comes from having a lot of talented guys around you. I think we have as good a wide receiver corps as any in the NFL. The other thing is, I’ve had time. We’ve thrown the football quite a bit and I haven’t been hit a lot. When you have those things around you, it helps you play fast, feel good and feel confident.”

It’s early. September isn’t a time for grand proclamations. But if the first three games are any indication, the Falcons have the look of a pretty special team, and Ryan is looking more like a quarterback who can get them there.

By Jeff Schultz

• Earlier: Short takes on the Falcons’ win: Resiliency, Ryan and turnovers

417 comments Add your comment

Ghruten

September 24th, 2012
8:25 am

JSS is more predictable than a Mike Mularkey offense. Show up and make some crack about Falcon fans being delusional. Then start engaging individual readers in an insulting manner. Yada, yada.

sheepdawg

September 24th, 2012
8:32 am

thank you mike vick for taking up your little dog fighting hobby, turned out well for the falcons

Henry

September 24th, 2012
8:46 am

Humm, Matt Ryan may have morphed into Roger Staubach for now, but he’ll change back into a pumpkin come playoff time. This guy is a more talented version of Tony Romo – he looks great until it really counts. He, like Romo, just isn’t a “money player.” He’ll find a way to choke when he plays for table stakes in January.

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

September 24th, 2012
8:47 am

I’m happier that the Saints are 0-3. Also can’t wait for UGA to fall to another ranked team…but that’ll be weeks from now considering they don’t play a ranked team right now.

Mike7734

September 24th, 2012
8:47 am

In all my years pulling for the Falcons, this is the most solid group I have ever witnessed. From the coaching, the offense, and now the defense. I have seen many good teams over the years, but this group has started off as a complete unit. Better than the 13-3 team, better than the Super bowl team…to come off an emotional Monday night win, go to the west coast and destroy San Diego on a short week says a lot. I am just so impressed by the overall product on the field…..this could be special!

Mike Franklin

September 24th, 2012
8:48 am

Quote:
“Time for the grocery bags again?”
“Is this what Karma looks like?”

Brown paper grocery bags are already being reported in short supply across southern Louisiana.
Karma is usually first identified from the outside looking in. Saints fans likely blame the league, the officiating… anyone and anything other than those who earned it.

Also, if the Falcons beat the Saints this year and if those wins somehow eliminate the same from playoff contention, those old yellow ‘I Hate The Falcons’ tee shirts (from the ’70s) may go on sale again as well.

Preston Thompson

September 24th, 2012
8:54 am

scam Newton…….huh? Can anybody say Vince Young. I’m seeing another one evolve. He’s entitled to win so everybody just stop playing and let it happen. It’s supposed to be that way,right?

warfalcon

September 24th, 2012
8:59 am

Great game Falcons,not getting to happy but if you look at the schedule and take one game at a time,the Falcons can run this all the way,just look at the teams and how they are playing now,but first we most take care of the Carolina Panters while CAM is still crying LOL.

flagger

September 24th, 2012
9:01 am

JSS can run faster, jump higher and pee further than anyone on earth…

Kudzu

September 24th, 2012
9:03 am

Headlines on ESPN.com…No mention of Falcons play, ESPN sux.

Smith keys Ravens win | Belichick grabs refSunday stunners: Saints fall to 0-3 | 49ers loseDucks to No. 2 after rout, LSU’s scare | PollRefs’ mistakes, shaky calls Week 3 themes Snedeker wins, captures FedEx Cup | HarigTexans top Broncos, still perfect | Cards 3-0Hamlin prevails, but JJ leads Chase | BlountYanks’ streak over at 7 | O’s 6-game run haltedEngland FA defends probe after Terry quits Rumors: Replacing C.J. Spiller | Revis, too?

PMC

September 24th, 2012
9:08 am

The throw and catch to Julio Jones was world class on both ends.

PMC

September 24th, 2012
9:11 am

I feel as confident as I ever have in the ability of this team to win games….anywhere.

Th

September 24th, 2012
9:13 am

The biggest difference I have seen so far this year as opposed to the past few is the number of times the receivers have gotten the ball short of the first down and just willed themselves past the marker. Little dump passes are turning into first downs this year and it makes the whole offense look better.

Garth

September 24th, 2012
9:17 am

Ryan is head and shoulders above Vick. He’s a thinkin’ quarterback who stays in the pocket, like Brady and the Mannings. It’s too bad the Flacons don’t have a real running game and a breakaway runner. That’s the only missing piece and it’s going to cost them dearly.

Flacons R idiots

September 24th, 2012
9:22 am

Realy? Rayan? If U ask me I thing Flaco looks much more beter.

Answer this

September 24th, 2012
9:23 am

Wow all these guys on here still wont give the Angry Birds the props they deserve…LOL. I know its only 3 games but we look pretty darn good and have so much more room for improvement! Come on guys. Its called giving props where they are due. Dont be such negativity Nellys and dump on the team now. If they were 0-3 all of you would be bashing hard. You dont have to be a fan of the Angry Birds but you have to respect the way they have played! SIMPLE. We will still RISE UP

WTF

September 24th, 2012
9:24 am

@Inbred UGA fan, How was it playing Miami?

Michael M.

September 24th, 2012
9:24 am

Next up……………..” The Cam Newton Show “……………………………..

Outcome >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Atlanta 41 – Carolina 17

4 – 0 Baby………….deal with it

Just Saying..

September 24th, 2012
9:25 am

Jeff, hate to bring in the negative, but do find an occasion to mention those Einstein GM-posters often seen here with their Matty Nice, Dummytroff comments…

WTF

September 24th, 2012
9:25 am

@DONNAN OF A NEW ERA Your right about the ranked teams but for some reason we can’t drop Paul I’m a Johnson and his high school team.

Seen This B4

September 24th, 2012
9:26 am

Come on……You have to admit the refs and the NFL gave the game to the Chiefs.

Is It Too Early To Tell

September 24th, 2012
9:27 am

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

At 3-0, that’s great. But they’ve beat one really bad team (Chiefs) and two okay teams (Broncos & Chargers).

If two of those wins had come against the 49ers, Ravens, Pats or the Texans, we’d all feel better.

Still, 3-0 in the NFL is 3-0 and a good start.

Michael M.

September 24th, 2012
9:29 am

Seen if that is really you ..then you are so crazy, I watched the Saints game………….they clearly blowed a chance to win that one and you know it……………after it was almost over you could look at the Caint players and know in their faces with going to play the Packers next week their Season was already over……………………………….

Flacons R idiots

September 24th, 2012
9:29 am

Please. 2 many bad cals by the refs gave this game 2 the Flacons.

Also I still thing Flaco looks much more beter than Rayan. Did you see that INT he throw? LOLOLO!!!

WTF

September 24th, 2012
9:30 am

@ Flacons R iditos: Flaco sucks and so do you.

Kramer

September 24th, 2012
9:31 am

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

September 24th, 2012
8:47 am
I’m happier that the Saints are 0-3. Also can’t wait for UGA to fall to another ranked team…but that’ll be weeks from now considering they don’t play a ranked team right now.

Look Gump, don’t know who you support (probably tech and don’t blame you to not admit it) but, the Dawgs are like the Falcons. Both teams are looking solid and we will see how solid for UGA in two weeks. Until then, time for you to crawl back into your hole.

Kramer

September 24th, 2012
9:33 am

Seenthis b4, your team should not have been in postion against the Chiefs at home for the refs to decide the game. Your defense has more holes in it then Obama’s head for god’s sakes!

Dr. Phil

September 24th, 2012
9:33 am

The best players do not need a Superman dance after a touchdown. Ryan and the Falcons are a class team.

Kramer

September 24th, 2012
9:35 am

Seenthisb4, your team should not have been in the position of allowing the refs to decide the game against the Chiefs at home. Your defense has more holes in it then our Presidents head for God’s sakes!

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

September 24th, 2012
9:36 am

I woke up with a case of the shakes.

Manny

September 24th, 2012
9:38 am

I’m hard of Matt Ryan because I can see his weaknesses, but what he does well, he does really well. And what Dimitroff and the Falcons did was bring pieces around him that compliments his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses. So they put together a wide target TE, a big target clutch receiver and a big play receiver.

Plus, the O-line can pass-block. But they were good last year (If you can count to ‘3-Mississippi’ while in the pocket, you have good pass blocking!) And with the addition of Harry Douglas and the speed-back, it’s a really nice offense!

For the first time in me looking at the Falcons, I see no holes in the offense. You have a quarterback that gets the ball out fast and can read defenses. You have a good line that can pass block (but isn’t really good at run-blocking.) You have a bruiser-back. You have a scat back. You have a big clutch receiver. You have a big-play receiver. You have a Hall-of-Famer at TE. I mean, No Holes!

But can we stop a second and talk about the real player of the game? Thomas Decoud?! Please? Did he ever step up! That secondary is playing outside of the skill level right now!

Kramer

September 24th, 2012
9:43 am

Manny, every QB in the NFL has a weakness or two or three or four. DeCoud, Ryan, the secondary are playing better because they have coaches with great schemes. The Steelers D have been solid for years because they have one the best D coaches in the league. You can say the same for the Ravens and Eagles for the past 5 years. Bottonline, the best off season pick ups were coaches.

Larry

September 24th, 2012
9:44 am

Is It Too Early To Tell,

Good points. I’m liking what I see this far but two things are awaiting on the horizon: A close tight game where they have to fight back to win; a team like the Giants with a defensive live so strong we will struggle with protection and keeping Matt upright.

However, our defensive intensity coming off a short week, traveling cross country, and playing in 110 degree heat was most impressive.

GT

September 24th, 2012
9:44 am

White made some pretty incredible catches too.

Larry

September 24th, 2012
9:44 am

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

September 24th, 2012
9:45 am

@ Manny

You’re hard for Matt Ryan? I don’t understand.

Jimmy

September 24th, 2012
9:47 am

Maybe now we can stop talking about Vick the dog killer.

Flacons loose the next 7 games

September 24th, 2012
9:48 am

Just wait N see.

Vick looks terrible

September 24th, 2012
9:49 am

I can’t stand all these idiots that still prefer Mike Vick. I believe he has paid for his crime, but his game is weak. If you still prefer him over Ryan, it has nothing to do with football!

Kramer

September 24th, 2012
9:50 am

Flacons loose the next 7 games

September 24th, 2012
9:48 am
Just wait N see.

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat gonna beat dem Saints? The Redskins, the Panthers, and the Chiefs. Dat who!

WTF

September 24th, 2012
9:52 am

Honk if you beat the Saints.

Seen This B4

September 24th, 2012
9:52 am

@ Kramer
Did you see the game? Saints had no chance from the beginning. Ever since the suspensions were over turned, Goodell has made it his personal quest to destroy the Saints. That is why there is no hurry to bring the real refs back. He has the replacement refs under his total control.

WTF

September 24th, 2012
9:54 am

Seen This B4 Wow are you reaching. You sound like the little kid we all used to punk.

Kramer

September 24th, 2012
9:54 am

Seenthis, come on man! Every team taking the field right now can lose because of the refs. That said, are you going to tell everyone on here that your defense is playing great ball and the refs have cost them the past three games? Please son! Charles ran for 222 yards on you yesterday that is why you lost. Same as last year your D gives up to many rushing yards.

Seen This B4

September 24th, 2012
9:55 am

I sleep in my Drew Brees jammies.

Seen This B4

September 24th, 2012
9:58 am

That’s not me.

Answer this

September 24th, 2012
10:00 am

STOP IT Seen! Now you looking really bad man! Take your angus whipping and hope you guys get on track! Dont you start saying it because of the refs. Its because of that porus defense and becasue of the bad Oline and because you guys cant stop anyone from scoring! Man you are getting WHIPPED at every facet of the game! Take your whipping Cletus!

Answer this

September 24th, 2012
10:01 am

HONK! Me and the guys from the Senior Center put old man Tony at tailback and we let him run 30 times and he got 216 yards on the ground!

Ueeediot

September 24th, 2012
10:05 am

@Henry
I’ll take that bet

And by the fact that you dropped a name from the 70s, I can infer that you, like many of the old men on this blog who come here to denigrate the Falcons, you dont know shinola about a real man’s game like the one they play on Sunday. Probably moves too fast for you to keep up with.
Explains why those like you come here to change the subject to a little boys game, like the one they play on Saturdays.

Most of the detractors on here still think the Aints are awesome and the Eagles are the class of the NFC. Must be a glitch in your crystal ball.

The Saints destroyed themselves

September 24th, 2012
10:07 am

The Saints cheated, pure and simple. Are they the first? No. Will they be the last? No. But they are the sloppiest. Their suspended coach is a junkie. Their fans are A-holes. Their city is a crime-riddled cesspool. Its a long season and anything can happen. The Saints have the worst defense in football and Brees is the 28th rated quarterback in the rankings. Yes the Falcons could hit a rough patch. Injuries could trip them up. The one thing that you can count on though, is The NFL’s Last Place team (The New Orleans Saints) will NOT be going to the playoffs. And if you think Roger destroyed the Saints, then you must also credit him with their temporary rise to prominence, because he suspended Mike Vick. Of course any rational human being will tell you… If you do the crime, be prepared to do the time!