With 5 seasons under his belt, many fans went into 2013 believing this would be a banner year for the franchise QB. After all, Matt Ryan and the Falcons were one play away from the Super Bowl the year before and important players like Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez were all back. This season, however, showed us that the NFL is often cold and cruel and that injuries are a great equalizer.
Julio Jones was lost to the team in week 5. Roddy White was hobbled for a majority of the season. Free agent signing Steven Jackson was also banged up significantly throughout the year and the offensive line ended up being so bad, that Lamar Holmes was a starter at one point. Yet, Ryan stood tall through it all, even as he had one of his roughest seasons ever. Despite losing so many weapons, having a god awful defense and an offensive line more porous than swiss cheese, Ryan never complained and still managed to put up a 4000 yard season.
His Best Game: Week 7 vs Tampa Bay
The first game without Julio was a remarkable one. Ryan managed to turn Harry Douglas into a 100 yard receiver (149 to be exact) en route to a 31 - 23 win. He was deadly efficient in the game going 20 of 26 for 273 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and a healthy 148.4 passer rating. In fact, this game gave Falcons fans hope that Ryan may be able to carry this team to a salvaged season.
In hindsight, it was a ridiculous expectation. A bottom of the league defense, terrible running game and dreadful offensive line is too much for any QB to overcome. Those expectations would come crashing back to reality just one week later.
His Worst Game: Week 8 at Arizona
It was somewhat fitting that the very next week would be when Ryan would have his worst game of the year. Ryan did throw for over 300 yards in this game (301) but did so on 61 pass attempts. SIXTY. ONE. That’s a sad, sad average of 4.9 yards per attempt. However, because it was Arizona, things went even more awry, with Ryan tossing 4 interceptions on the day. The Falcons lost 27 - 13 on the back of Ryan’s horrific 47.2 passer rating.
What We Learned
We learned that Matt Ryan isn’t good enough to lift a team with the worst running game, worst pass blocking and worst defense in the league with three of his top weapons hobbled or on the sidelines. We also learned that he is tough as nails, taking repeated shots game after game and never missing a snap.
Maybe more importantly is what Ryan learned during this season. Playing behind a terrible offensive line forced him to become more aware in the pocket. He would spend the off-season learning to move around the pocket better to buy himself time even when his offensive line couldn’t do it for him. Many fans rightly point to this season as the one that helped Ryan learn to take his pocket movement to the next level. It’s been very, very good ever since.
The Falcons would finish 4-12 this season, easily the worst in Ryan’s career. It was a hard, physically brutal season for the franchise QB. The fact he even survived it is a testament to his toughness and durability.