I was almost done with last week's ode to the Atlanta receivers when I realized I was only singing half the praises I should have been. I mean, who throws them the ball?
It's sad that I've kept it inside for so long. Now is the time to profess my love for Matt Ryan.
Yes, the season is quite young, and more importantly, Ryan's career is quite young. A lot was made about his performances in the five losses last year—he threw more than 30 times in those games and only those games and had three TD to four interceptions—but it is an undeniable fact that the Falcons have had success through the air with him at the quarterback position, and he is at least half of the reason why.
Several things about him stand out and point to him not crapping out, though. Most importantly, the dude's cool; we call him "Ice." He's calm in the pocket, despite not having great scrambling ability, and absolutely does not get frazzled by a sack or a pick.
In the brief time that I've been part of the credentialed media and thereby privileged to listen to the young man at his postgame press conferences, he has come off to me as beyond his years and extremely intelligent, yet still friendly. He knows how to deal with us quote sharks, responding mostly in buzzword rhetoric, but I actually like him more for that.
He knows it's lame and not exactly what we wanted to hear, but it keeps team chemistry intact and always leaves us with a positive, if ambiguous, vibe.
Last week, he took total responsibility for the INT he threw. Praised Marty Booker for running his route well and just admitted that he got the ball to the wrong guy. He also made fun of one of his passes when someone asked if it had gotten tipped:
"Nope. Just a duck."
Awesome, hilarious, and a good sign that he takes things like that into perspective. By the way, that "duck" was caught for a Dirty Bird TD.
Looking at last season's game-by-game stats, Ryan got better as the season went along. Looking at his numbers two games into 2009, it seems as though he's going to cruise along at that improved level as the offense sorts the new catching options out. Sounds good; I'm pretty content with around 225 yards passing, a couple touchdowns, and a completion rate darn-near 70 percent.
The sophomore slump already seems laughable for some reason. After seeing this guy under the lights at the dome, checking down his options until he finds just the right one, and then seeing him before the mic, charming a roomful of press, I don't see it happening. Not that he won't have a bad game or two, but...is he really just a second-year player?
But I'm starting to regurgitate here, and that's something I dislike on B/R as much as...you get the picture. Allow me to inject some analysis into this column by addressing my main concern for Matty: injuries.
Probably by typing it I've jinxed him. He's done just fine so far, putting up with stingers and not getting in harms' way. Protection must continue to improve, however, if he's going to survive a Bears-Cowboys back-to-back with a Redskins clash and Giants contest in November. As I said, Ryan isn't exactly known for his evasion.
But here I am coming back to the positive: "Not being known for his evasion" really isn't a knock on a quarterback. It's a plus to have the running skills of a Vick or the build of a JaMarcus Russell, not a necessity. What is necessary is to have the presence of mind to pick the correct target and get it to him with some zip.
Ryan does that. So as long as the O-line keeps him on his feet and Michael Turner keeps defenses semi-honest, why should Ice get any worse?
Why shouldn't I go ahead and wax poetic on the man who might just be a franchise savior? Because it's too "early"?
If you'd lived here in the Dirty, you'd know relief couldn't come soon enough. Besides that, Matt's one season of production and hot start to the new campaign are pretty much sufficient for the label.
So here it is, in document form, my expression of gratitude and affection for No. 2. It's inexcusable it took me so long.