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, and the 2011 article here.
Today, Ryan’s 2012 campaign is on tap.
His best game - Week 1 vs. Kansas City
2012 would be another step taken forward in Matt Ryan’s maturation, as his stellar performance in the season’s opening game would prove to be a harbinger of things to come.
Ryan was nearly flawless in Atlanta’s opening game in Kansas City, which doubled down as a homecoming for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Ryan registered a glistening 74.2% completion percentage on 31 passes, and a season high 9.6 yards per attempt to go along with 299 passing yards, four total touchdowns (one rushing), and no turnovers.
This game was tied 17-17 late in the second quarter, before Ryan orchestrated a 23-7 run throughout the rest of the afternoon to not only get the win, but to also score a season high 40 points. He connected with Julio Jones for 108 yards and two scores, and carried the Falcons’ offense despite a weak presence in the run game (something that would become a theme throughout the course of the season).
This was one of three really standout performances for Ryan from the 2012 season, along with the Week 15 drubbing of the Giants and the Week 16 win in Detroit on Monday Night Football. He had at least three scores and a passer rating of 135 or above in all three of those contests, but the yardage and points scored had me leaning toward this performance against the Chiefs as his 2012 magnum opus.
His worst game - Week 11 vs. Arizona
While I went back and forth in deciding which game I would put down as Ryan’s best in 2012 (between the Chiefs, Giants, and Lions), it was incredibly easy to pick out this stinker against the Cardinals as his worst performance.
This was one of seven 300-yard games for Ryan on the season, but it was also one of two games where he didn’t throw a single touchdown pass. It was an incredibly frustrating afternoon at the Georgia Dome for the Boston College product as he also threw a career high five (!!!) interceptions. Ryan’s passer rating of 40.5 in that game was also the second-lowest of his career.
Absolutely nothing went right for Ryan, as Arizona’s defensive backs took turns padding their stats against him — Rashan Jones, Daryl Washington, Kerry Rhodes, Sam Acho, and William Gay all got an interception on the afternoon as Atlanta was -5 in the turnover battle. This was the game which ended any serious MVP hopes Ryan had that season.
Just to showcase how incredible that 2012 campaign was, however, the Falcons somehow managed to win that game, as Arizona’s Ryan Lindley threw for just 64 yards on 3.2 yards per attempt.
What we learned
Before the 2016 Super Bowl run happened, this was the gold standard season of Matt Ryan’s career. He led the Falcons to a 13-3 record and the top seed in the NFC for the second time in three years, and won his first career playoff game in the Divisional Round against the Seattle Seahawks.
The difference between this season and 2010 (the other 13-3 campaign), however, is that Michael Turner carried Atlanta’s offense in 2010, whereas it was Matt Ryan carrying the Birds to the tune of 4719 yards, 32 touchdowns, and a 99.1 passer rating (all career highs at this point) in 2012.
Matt Ryan had matured into an elite quarterback, and 2012 was the season when we learned that he could carry this team to great heights.