It would be fair to say that Matt Ryan did not have the best game of his pro career.
Flushed out of the pocket throughout the first half, Ryan got happy feet at times in the second half. He threw two ugly picks, one of which was entirely his fault and the other of which kind of zipped by Julio Jones. I would be remiss if I didn’t note those very real faults in the game, because they have got to be corrected. Even if 90 percent of that was on the offensive line’s wide shoulders.
Okay, we’re done with that. Now it’s time to start praising Ryan, who Mike Smith called "a tough Irishman" earlier in the week. You could be forgiven for looking at Ryan and not believing that characterization, but he earned it the last two weeks.
Against the Bears, Ryan was sacked five times and harried countless others. Against the Eagles, he was again harassed all day by Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin, who ate him alive to the tune of four sacks and at least a half dozen hits. Every time, Ryan staggered to his feet and kept going.
Consider this: Ice threw for four touchdowns two nights ago, despite that. He engineered the game-winning drive despite the Eagles’ continued manhandling of the offensive line. After the game, there was nary a word coming from the Falcons’ quarterback about the way the line let him down, even though the word that sprang readily to mind for me was "spectacularly." In his always bland, always aw shucks way, Ryan proved he’s a tough son of a gun who can take a hit.
If you’re a guy who doesn’t believe Ryan is an elite quarterback, fine. Just don’t question his toughness.
My biggest concern moving forward is ensuring that Ryan isn’t, you know, killed. We know he’ll stay in the game and take cannon fire directly to the hull all game long. What we don’t know is if he can possibly survive that kind of beating for an entire season. My guess would be no.
So once more, I renew my call for the offensive line to improve enough to prevent opposing pass rushers from treating Matt Ryan like a kitten treats a toy mouse. The Falcons appear optimistic about Todd McClure, which has to be encouraging for Ryan and fans alike, but everyone else has to step up, too.