On every Tuesday night, I re-watch the Falcons previous game and post GIFs of the most stand out plays or disappointing decisions. It has become popular, which is why I wanted to start making this into a weekly feature. Focusing on one particular player or positional group is going the primary objective. There isn’t a better way to start than looking at Matt Ryan.
Ryan produced another impressive stat line to continue his stellar season. Considering the punishment that he received from Seattle’s front seven, it was a remarkable performance. Ryan did leave some plays on the field, which most quarterbacks suffer from on a weekly basis. These missed opportunities did come back to haunt Atlanta in a two-point defeat. Let’s look at some of his misses, along with some of his more impressive throws.
1st quarter: 1st and 10 at ATL 9
Some plays are designed to immediately get the ball out and gain some yardage. With Tevin Coleman’s breakout performance last week, nobody can dispute Ryan for wanting to get the ball into his new playmaker’s hands for a decent gain. He did miss a wide-open Julio Jones for an easy first down. K.J. Wright wasn’t anywhere near the play. DeShawn Shead was comfortable giving Jones cushion, as he didn’t want to get beat deep. Ryan tends to occasionally stare down his first option. That proved to be significant because of what occurred two plays later. Cliff Avril beat Ryan Schraeder on a sack and forced a turnover. It didn’t help that Ryan was once again caught staring down his first option and not showing good pocket awareness. The fumble resulted in a seven-point swing.
2nd quarter: 1st and 10 at ATL 33
Ryan responds from a disastrous first quarter with a beautiful strike to Mohamed Sanu. Seattle’s linebackers are very instinctive, as they don’t bite on the play action. Wright sees an opening and goes right after Ryan. Michael Bennett overpowers Levine Toilolo in an obvious mismatch. Ryan stands tall in the pocket and manages to find his number two wide receiver, while getting sandwiched. It’s a great play by Sanu, although you would expect him to make that catch. This starts a productive twelve-play drive that eventually stalls in the red zone.
2nd quarter: 1st and 10 at SEA 15
This is on the same drive. Once again, Ryan wants to get his running backs involved in the passing game. Freeman is matched up with Wright in the slot. Ryan is glued to that matchup and wants to attack it. Earl Thomas provides immediate help and snuffs out any potential opening. The pass sails out of bounds anyway. Jones is running a crossing route without anyone tracking him. Bobby Wagner has to cover Jacob Tamme, which puts him out of position. This is an easy eight-yard completion (if not more) to Jones, which would have put the Falcons near the goal line. It wasn’t the only miss on a drive that ended with three points.
2nd quarter: 2nd and 10 at SEA 15
On the very next play, Ryan makes another bizarre decision. It’s rare to see him force a pass to Levine Toilolo. Thomas recognizes Toilolo is running a wheel route and brilliantly closes him down. The pass was poorly thrown again to waste another play. On the other side, Sanu finds an opening in Seattle’s zone coverage. Wright has to chase down Coleman, who is an obvious threat. That leaves a clear opening for Sanu to make another big play. Ryan fails to see it and misses out on a potential touchdown. This drive should have resulted in a touchdown. In such a narrow defeat, these misses were detrimental.
2nd quarter: 1st and 10 at ATL 25
It’s difficult to criticize Ryan for this decision, but he should look for his main weapon in this situation. Seattle went up 17-3 and controlled the entire first half. On a positive note, the offense remains aggressive. Jones and Taylor Gabriel both run fine routes and create separation. The only issue is Thomas is lurking once again. He is clearly favoring Gabriel’s side, as Richard Sherman is matched up with Jones in man coverage. Ryan's willingness to spread the ball around more this year is commendable. At the same time, you can see Jones beat Sherman at the line of scrimmage. Thomas’ mastery and Ryan missing his top receiver again erases a potential big play. Jones produced an outstanding stat line, yet should have gone for at least 175 yards.
3rd quarter: 2nd and 7 at ATL 6
After Eric Weems’ fair catch gaffe at the three-yard line, the offense doesn’t have much space. Ryan needs to make a quick decision against one of the best linebacker tandems, a superstar cornerback, and the best safety in the league. He finds Justin Hardy, who gets inside leverage on Shead. Seattle’s linebackers are still lurking, as Ryan needs to be careful throwing in the middle of the field. The pass is low, but that isn’t an issue. Avoiding any potential tipped pass in a congested area is vital, when Thomas is roaming the field. Ryan hits Hardy for an 11-yard pickup. The second-year wide receiver stepped up with three huge receptions in the second half.
3rd quarter: 1st and 10 at ATL 17
This is the next play. Ryan started firing on all cylinders in the third quarter. With better protection and Seattle’s defense suffering from multiple coverage busts, he found some big openings. This is arguably Ryan’s most impressive throw of the game. He starts targeting Jones more in the second half. You can tell their rapport is strong on this play. Ryan throws the pass before Jones is finished completing his route. Jones finds the perfectly thrown pass and makes a fantastic catch. It went for a 24-yard gain and jumpstarted their game-tying drive. Credit to the offensive line on this play. Without good protection, this completion doesn’t transpire.
4th quarter: 3rd and 10 at ATL 25
Sherman's obvious pass interference overshadowed Ryan's costly decision on third down. Before the refs failed to make a sensible call, the mangled quarterback found himself in a precarious situation. Does he scramble and pick up as many yards as possible or force a downfield pass to Sanu? Ryan threw two consecutive incompletions intended for Sanu prior to this play. He made a poor decision, as it was a low-percentage throw on third-and-long. Ryan had room to gain at least six yards, if not more depending on the angle. He can outrun defensive linemen. How much he had left following Seattle's first half beating might have played a factor. In the end, the opportunity was there to pick up much-needed yardage. Ryan went downfield instead and put the offense in a fourth-and-long scenario.