The Atlanta Falcons are 2-6 for the second season in a row for multiple reasons.
The very, very least of those reasons is the play of Matt Ryan.
When a team is failing, it's easy to look at the quarterback. Often times, he's the player that is the face of the team and has the largest contract.
Regardless, the quarterback is only one member of the team. And, as they say, football is the ultimate team sport.
Furthermore, Ryan's statistics don't support the claim of him being at fault for Atlanta's woes.
Through eight games, Ryan ranks fourth in passing yards with 2,306; 13th in completion percentage with 64.9; eighth in touchdowns with 15; and his 93.1 passer rating is good for 15th in the league.
His eight interceptions are tied for sixth in the league, but a good bit of those turnovers were either not the fault of Ryan or simply inconsequential.
Three of Ryan's picks came in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals. His first interception in that game was tipped by Levine Toilolo and subsequently intercepted by Leon Hall. The third interception was a desperation heave on a 4th and 25 with 30 seconds left in the 24-10 loss.
In Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings, Ryan threw two interceptions. The first turnover was a deep pass intended for Roddy White, who didn't exactly come out of his route cleanly. Perhaps he thought the ball would sail out of bounds, but Harrison Smith came up with the interception. The second pick was another desperation heave with no time left on the clock.
Jump to Week 5: Ryan's interception against the New York Giants was wiped out by a penalty, but because the Falcons gained better field position after recovering the Quintin Demps fumble, the team opted to let the play go.
Admittedly, Ryan's worst pick came against the Detroit Lions. At first glance, it's hard to figure out what he thought he saw. But, looking at the play again, it's clear Ryan was merely trying to throw the ball away and didn't see Cassius Vaughn. He confirmed this on 680 the Fan.
And that pick was good enough for one Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report to make a knee-jerk claim of Ryan being nowhere near as good as he was. As if that claim wasn't enough, Freeman goes on to say it's Ryan who will be the reason Mike Smith is fired.
Curiously enough, Freeman makes an assertion he doesn't back up. At one point in the article, he provides a table of Ryan's career stats from year to year. It's strange because outside of the 2013 dumpster fire, his stats have been better in the following year. (Ryan was injured in 2009 and missed two games.)
Particularly egregious is the fact Freeman fails to note Atlanta has lost five of its offensive linemen for the season: tackles Lamar Holmes, Sam Baker, and Mike Johnson and centers Joe Hawley and Peter Konz. Johnson was the only lineman who wasn't a starter.
Rookie Jake Matthews suffered an ankle injury in the first half versus the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, missed the next game, and retweaked his ankle in Week 5. While Matthews has been toughing it out through the injury, his performance has clearly suffered.
Again: football is the ultimate team sport. Things get especially difficult when a team has to go deep down the depth chart to find players to protect the quarterback. See: the Vikings game in which the Falcons were forced to use Toilolo at right tackle.
Much like last season, Atlanta has been forced to resort to a short - and largely ineffective passing game - to compensate for the offensive line's inability to provide solid protection.
If you create a list of the Falcons' problems, you'd note, as mentioned above, the injuries to the offensive line. There's the defense and its ineptitude at stopping both the pass and the run. There's the coaches seeming stubbornness with giving players who have proven they deserve more snaps (Jonathan Massaquoi, Antone Smith) over veterans that haven't necessarily shown they demand the amount of snaps they receive (Kroy Biermann, Steven Jackson).
What's for certain: Ryan would be the absolute last item on that list, if he's on there at all.