Where does the time go? Matt Ryan will be heading into his 12th season under center as the leader of the Atlanta Falcons in 2019, and it feels like just yesterday that he was drafted with the third overall pick out of Boston College.
Join us in dwelling on the past a bit, as we wait for year 12 of the Matt Ryan era to commence. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look back at each of Ryan’s 11 seasons individually — his best game, his worst game and what we learned from each season. You can find the 2008 article here.
Today, Ryan’s 2009 sophomore campaign is on tap.
His best game - Week 5 at San Francisco 49ers
Before the late season and playoff battles he would lead the Falcons in against the San Francisco 49ers later on in his career, Matt Ryan put on a show in his first ever game against the former NFC West rival that used to terrorize the Birds on a consistent basis in the ‘80s.
Coming off of a bye week, and with a 2-1 record in the early going, Ryan led the Falcons into the Bay Area for a duel with the 49ers. Ryan registered his only 300-yard game of the season in this matchup with 329 passing yards, and he accounted for three touchdowns (two passing and one rushing), along with a dazzling 110.0 passer rating.
Ryan was in a rhythm with star wide receiver Roddy White throughout the entire afternoon — linking up with White to the tune of eight completions for 210 yards (White’s career high in receiving yards in a game) and both of his touchdowns through the air. The first TD was a season-high 90-yard score (which, admittedly, White did most of the work on).
The Falcons scored a season-high 45 points and cruised to a 3-1 record. It felt like a second straight playoff berth was inevitable at this point in the season.
His worst game - Week 8 at New Orleans Saints
Ryan experienced his worst game of the season in New Orleans, in the middle of a hostile environment against a team that was undefeated at that point.
Ryan threw for a season-high three interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and registered season lows in both completion percentage (45.2%) and passer rating (46.6). This was a game where Ryan showed that he was just a sophomore in the league, as he pretty much cost Atlanta with his poor play.
These were the bounty Saints who forced turnovers in bunches in 2009, and Ryan was susceptible to it. His career record against New Orleans fell to 1-2, and he would end up missing the second meeting of the season between the teams because of his turf toe injury — one of just two full games that he’s missed in his career.
This was the middle of a rough stretch of games for the Falcons, who would lose six of eight matchups after getting off to a 4-1 start. Ultimately, this stretch would cost Atlanta a trip to the playoffs, but the Birds would bounce back and win their final three games of the season to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in team history.
What we learned
We learned that while Matt Ryan was still the right guy to lead the Falcons, he wasn’t quite ready to carry this team on his shoulders just yet. Michael Turner was still the engine of this squad, and him being either injured or completely hobbled in the final seven games of the season decimated the entire campaign.
2009 was the only season of Ryan’s career where he would throw for less than 3,000 passing yards, but that was aided by the fact that he missed two games to turf toe (really it was more like three games, since he got hurt in the first quarter in Week 12). Ryan experienced some growing pains, but it’s nothing that hasn’t helped make him a better player as a result.
What are some of your favorite (or least favorite) moments from that largely forgettable 2009 season?