Matt Ryan mercifully came out of Sunday’s game against the Steelers healthy, or at least not “the X-ray revealed something terrible” unhealthy. We take that for granted with Ryan, who has missed very little time over the course of his career, but perhaps we shouldn’t after the beating he took Sunday.
Ryan was sacked six times and generally knocked around by a Steelers defense that was all too willing to relentlessly rush the passer and see what came of it. If the offensive line was holding up the way you would hope they would, Ryan would have likely found himself with the time and confidence to air it out against a lousy Steelers secondary. Instead, he was pressured relentlessly, and he’s now on pace to take a career-high number of sacks in 2018.
#Falcons Matt Ryan sacked per year— Evan Birchfield (@EvanBirchfield) October 8, 2018
2008 - 17
2009 - 19
2010 - 23
2011 - 26
2012 - 28
2013 - 44
2014 - 31
2015 - 30
2016 - 37
2017 - 24
2018 - 16 (on pace for 51)
To compensate for that, Ryan is having to make quick throws with pressure already arriving, as he did on that Mohamed Sanu touchdown that turned out to be the one major highlight from Sunday’s game. By the time Ryan gets rid of the ball, there’s already two men virtually on top of him, and that was a theme throughout the game on Sunday. Also, the snap was a little high here.
To be clear, not every sack is on the offensive line, as Ryan has become justly notorious for hanging on to the ball a little too long at times in an effort to make things happen. There wasn’t a ton of that against Pittsburgh, though, and it’s still a minor issue compared to the pass protection.
There’s no easy answer here. The Falcons can and should work to find ways to get the ball out quicker, especially with a cupcake Buccaneers defense up next to practice against. But there is no easy fix for Ryan Schraeder’s struggles, which have been very close to week-in, week-out at this point. There’s no real replacement waiting for Alex Mack, who isn’t struggling just yet but has had some concerning stretches where he’s getting knocked around by strong defensive linemen. And Brandon Fusco and Wes Schweitzer, while game and even good at times this season, are not elite options. Ben Garland isn’t going to ride to the rescue here, and Atlanta’s tackle options (Ty Sambrailo and Matt Gono) are not inspiring at the moment.
That leaves the Falcons with some question marks along the line this offseason with a regime in place that has been loathe to spend high round draft picks on the line, and at this very moment, it has to worry anyone who was at least hoping to see a high-flying offense the rest of the way.