Can Matt Ryan Overcome a Lackluster Supporting Cast Facing a Decidedly Mediocre Pass Defense?

Scott Cunningham

Fact: Matt Ryan can light a fire by rubbing two ice cubes together.

Tampa Bay, to their credit, has improved their pass defense. In 2012, they were bad. Like really bad. Like bad in epic fashion. Now, they're decidedly mediocre. Hooray improvement!

The addition of Revis hasn't hurt, though even Bucs fans know he's benefiting from a conscious effort to keep him out of man coverage. As for the remainder of their secondary, it's been an up and down year. What's really driven their defense is grit. To their credit, they look like a Dungy defense of old. They look like they're angry.

From an efficiency standpoint, Tampa Bay's pass defense is pretty much average. In fact, it's 0.7 percent more efficient than league average (12th in the league). It ranks 15th in opposing passer rating (84.3), 13th in opponent passing first downs/game (12), 16th in opposing passing yards/game (247.8), and 18th in opponent completion percentage (62.11 percent).

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with mediocrity, especially when you're facing a team whose vertical attack is hobbled by a hamstring injury/high ankle sprain and recovering from foot surgery. Atlanta has to play physical, hard nose football. The offensive linemen need to drink a tall glass of Harvey Dahl sweat before stepping on the field.

Kudos to Tampa Bay for improving, but Vishnu help them if Matt Ryan and his merry bad of misfit toys come to play Sunday. This may not come down to receiver versus defensive back battles. It may just come down to how much time Ryan has to throw. Playing without Sam Baker yet again won't hurt. But with Lavonte David bearing down on the pocket, Ryan will need to be quick on his feet and icier than ever.

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