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, the 2009 article here, the 2010 article here, the 2011 article here, the 2012 article here, the 2013 article here, and the 2014 article here.
Today, Ryan’s 2015 campaign is on tap.
His best game - Week 16 vs. Carolina
2015 was that season where the Falcons got off to an incredible 5-0 start before completely going off the rails in the form of seven losses in following next eight games. Ryan helped right the ship with a signature victory over the powerhouse Panthers late in the season, however.
The Carolina Panthers took a 14-0 record into this Week 16 matchup at the Georgia Dome, and had just eviscerated the Falcons up in Charlotte, 38-0, two weeks prior. They were led by Cam Newton, who would soon be named the MVP of the league, and boasted the sixth-best scoring and total defense.
Nothing much more than pride was at stake for the 7-7 Falcons, who wanted to spoil their rivals’ perfect season and set a good tone for 2016. Matt Ryan playing an efficient, mistake-free game helped make that a reality. Ryan totaled 303 passing yards and a very big touchdown pass to Julio Jones on 10.2 yards per pass and a 119.6 passer rating (both season highs).
Ryan and the Falcons did enough to pull out a victory and land Carolina their only blow of the regular season. He only had the one touchdown pass, but this was a year where the Boston College alum threw for more than two in a single game only once. The 300-yard game was also just one of five over the course of the entire season.
His worst game - Week 11 vs. Indiana
If you purely go by the raw box score stats, then you may not think that this was Ryan’s worst game of the season — he threw for a healthy 280 passing yards and a season-high three touchdowns — but this game was dreadful for those who remember it.
Having lost three out of four after starting the season 5-0, the Falcons needed a win like they needed oxygen. Many fans thought that win would come in Week 11 when the Colts came to town without star quarterback Andrew Luck, who was injured. A 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck got the start.
Ryan’s mistakes essentially handed Indianapolis this game, and kept the Falcons in free-fall. He threw a season-high three interceptions — one was in the red zone, one was an absolute gift to D’Qwell Jackson at Atlanta’s 5-yard-line, which was returned for an easy score to make it 21-21, and one ended the game on the afternoon’s final play.
Atlanta ended up blowing a 21-7 lead in the second half, and losing 24-21, as it had become clear to fans that this was something more than just a rough patch of games in the middle of the season.
What we learned
The Falcons seemed destined to end their two-year playoff hiatus, as they were rolling with an undefeated record in mid-October. No matter how much we didn’t want to admit it to ourselves at the time, however, it was obvious that Atlanta was not as good as their record had indicated. All four of those matchups against NFC East opponents in the first five games could have easily gone the other way.
What we had ultimately learned was that Matt Ryan hadn’t quite grasped first-year offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense just yet. Fans were ready to drive Shanahan out of town by the end of the season, as Ryan had his worst statistical year since his sophomore campaign. Things would eventually click the following season with Ryan earning league MVP honors en route to a Super Bowl bid.