It’s hard to put a finger on what made the Atlanta Falcons so successful this season, because there isn’t one definitive answer. There never is in the NFL. But where’s the first place to look? Matt Ryan, who is having an MVP-type season, just without the hype that usually follows the best quarterbacks in the game.
There wasn’t much for the Detroit Lions to celebrate this season, so they settled with Calvin Johnson breaking Jerry Rice’s record of receiving yards in a season, setting it at 1892 yards with a game to go before the season ends. Other than that, it was back to normal for the Lions. Another loss, another losing season, and all the build up from last year went to the trash, heading into the final week with a 4-11 record.
For the Falcons? Another step up the ladder of success. With a 13-2 record, they’ve clinced the top spot in the NFC, meaning they’ll be in the divisional playoff game for the second time in three years. All these wins and achievements won’t mean nothing if the Mike Smith – Matt Ryan tandem remains at 0 playoff wins since 2008, despite a regular season record of 55-23 up to this point.
Once again, Ryan gets glanced over in the MVP considerations. Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady. A running back with an exceptional year and two quarterbacks who are always in this debate. Matt Ryan, probably because of his postseason pedigree and the un-exciting nature of the Falcons this season, winning many games by digging deep and simply coming up with one big play in the end of the game or making just one less mistake in an ugly one, is always forgotten when it comes to MVP discussions.
His performance against the Detroit Lions was certainly one of his best this season. He finished with 25-32 for 279 and four touchdowns, finishing with a 142.6 passer rating. Only three of his 32 passing attempts didn’t hit their mark because of him under or overthrowing the pass. This season, only 13.4% of his passes have been incomplete because of a bad throw by him, which ranks for first in the NFL after usually placing in the lower half of the league in that category over his first four seasons.
He was mostly effective with the play action plays, going 7-7 on them for 109 yards and three touchdowns. With these touchdowns, he tied Steve Bartkowski for the Falcons’ single-season record with 31 passing touchdowns. It was also the third time in his career with four touchdown passes.
Like in last week’s dominant 38-0 win against the New York Giants, the Falcons were too much too early for their opponents. They jumped to a 21-3 in the middle of the first half. The Lions did make noises of a comeback, trimming the lead to 21-16, but that just woke up Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense, completing 10 quick points in the fourth quarter to put the game beyond doubt.
There’s much more to the Falcons that Matt Ryan. Their defense might not be in the upper half of the NFL when it comes to holding opponents on low yardage, but they come up with the big play almost every time. Ryan has an excellent bunch of receivers and Michael Turner still has some miles left in his tank. They won’t be favorites heading into the postseason, despite the record, but they should be getting a lot more respect than they’ve had all season long, because they know how to win in so many different ways, while their quarterback has progressed into the upper echelon of QBs in the NFL.