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 past few weeks, we’ve taken 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, the 2014 article here, the 2015 article here, the 2016 article here, and the 2017 article here.
This is the last article in this series. 2018 season is on tap.
His best game - Week 3 vs. New Orleans
2018 was a bounce-back season for Matt Ryan, and it was statistically the best of his career other than that ridiculous 2016 MVP campaign. Ryan was on point in Atlanta’s crucial Week 3 matchup against the rival New Orleans Saints, and it’s a complete travesty that he was on the losing end.
Ryan threw for 374 passing yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions in this game. He connected with Calvin Ridley for three touchdown passes, and had the Falcons looking like they were about to score every time he got the ball back. The 148.1 passer rating he earned was a season high as well, and just a few points off perfection.
It’s a shame that the defense couldn’t stop New Orleans from scoring every single time they were on the field as well, in what was one of the most pathetic performances I’ve personally witnessed in a long time. Special shoutout to Robert Alford and Brian Poole for letting an ancient Drew Brees spin away from them and score the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Sensational stuff from those now former Falcons (no, I’m still not over it. How many Falcons defenders, from the past and the present, wish they could have had a free shot on Drew Brees like that?).
Another travesty is the fact that Ryan didn’t even have a chance to touch the ball in the overtime period, since New Orleans got the ball first and scored a touchdown on their initial drive. The coin toss was always going to decide this game after it went into OT.
His worst game - Week 1 vs. Philadelphia
Remember when everyone panicked after Matt Ryan’s stinker against the defending champions on the season’s opening Thursday night in the rain? Don’t get me wrong, Ryan was not good in this game, but the national media’s instinct to eagerly bury him was ridiculous.
This was the only game of the season in which Ryan failed to complete at least half of his passes, registering a 48.8% completion percentage. The 251 passing yards he recorded checked in as his third-fewest in 2018, and this was the only game in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass. Ryan’s 57.4 passer rating was a season low by nearly 30 points in comparison to his second-lowest passer rating in a game.
Atlanta ultimately lost the game by failing to convert on a goal-to-go situation at the very end, the same way they had failed to do so in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in Philadelphia just a few months earlier. The Falcons not only lost the game, but they also lost Keanu Neal for the season and Deion Jones for 12 weeks.
What we learned
We learned that Matt Ryan is still an elite quarterback despite the lack of love he continues to get from the media, and from within parts of this very fanbase. He went for 4,924 passing yards, 35 touchdowns, and seven interceptions and still didn’t even get selected to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
We also learned that it doesn’t matter how good your QB is if your defense is downright awful. Ryan had back-to-back games against the Saints and Bengals in Weeks 3 and 4 where he totaled a combined 793 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns, no turnovers and lost both games despite putting up 37 and then 36 points on the board. This seven win season wasn’t Matt Ryan’s fault; it was the fault of a defense which did nothing but waste a year of his prime.