Cue the circus attraction music!
Come one, come all, to see the incredible quarterback who cannot be sacked. Four times this season the daredevil has thrown himself at the mercy of his offensive line, and four times he has escaped harm. Miraculous! The one time this titan among men was bested, he was brought to the ground twice by the click, fin-slapping marine mammals in the first week of the NFL season. Truly a tremendous performance from a demigod!
In case you're denser than a neutron star, I am of course talking about our own Matt Ryan. We're blessed to have Ryan on the team for any number of reasons, but his propensity for avoiding sacks is climbing up those charts like a posthumous Michael Jackson album. I'm stunned on a daily basis that he's managed to be brought down only twice this season. For much of 2009, you had to give all the credit to the offensive line, who have protected him fiercely every step of the way. Those guys still deserve an enormous amount of credit, and I'm only too happy to give it to them. Quarterbacks simply don't survive without good lines in front of them.
But. For the first time since the Miami Dolphins game, Ryan was actually facing some heat from the Chicago Bears defense. They got in at him, sometimes incredibly close. What did Matt Ryan do in each of those situations, you ask? He either rolled out and threw the ball away to avoid the sack, connected on a pass to get out of the jam, took off entirely or just somehow magically avoided the pressure. You heard it here first, folks: Matt Ryan is a gizflammin' wizard.
It speaks highly of Ryan's escape ability and the way he manages not to be rattled by basically anything. The under-throws and over-throws are still a big deal, but he's making it work. Credit has to go to Mike Mularkey for not forcing Ryan to take seven step drops, which if you'll recall was a major failing of the Jim Mora Jr. era with Michael Vick. The less time a quarterback spends chugging slowly backwards, the more time he has to react to the rush coming at him. So kudos for that.
Really, it's a number of things that have led to this point, but I do know I'm pretty thrilled with the results. If the Falcons can keep Ryan on his feet all season long, that's an advantage we have over about three-quarters of the league. With a little luck and a lot of skill, we might see a zero in the sacks category again against the Cowboys.