Do Da Dirty Bird: For Matt Ryan, What's Luck Got To Do with Picks?

John McCurdyCorrespondent INovember 21, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 15:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons drops back to throw a pass against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you feel the need to put this article's title to the tune of a certain Tina Turner song, I'll look the other way. You think I didn't think of that as I was coming up with it?

In all seriousness, a shout-out goes to Tim, a DDDB regular who contributed to the idea for this article. Let it be known: Your topic suggestions are welcome, readers!

But on to the analysis, which I'll kick off with some digits. Specifically, a few telling ratios:

  • Week Five: 2-to-1
  • Week Six: 2-to-2
  • Week Seven: 2-to-2
  • Week Eight: 1-to-3
  • Week Nine: 1-to-1
  • Week Ten: 1-to-2

And if you guessed "Matt Ryan's touchdowns-to-interceptions," your check's in the mail, winner.

To be fair to the man, I still consider him more messiah than pariah; the alibi isn't without some merit. The Falcons have gone up against three of the top 10 teams in the NFL in total picks over this stretch (San Fran, Nawlins, Carolina), and two more (the Chi and Washington) that rank in the top eight in overall pass defense.

But with a rating steadily plummeting and endgame results steadily sickening (don't tell me we wouldn't have beaten the Panthers without Richard Marshall's interception in the fourth quarter), I'm put on the spot as a Falcons FC: Is something wrong with Matty?

And if not, just what is wrong?

Readers of the Giants game preview got a taste of the observation that Ryan is getting picked off mostly on crossing routes, little intermediate passes slanting over the top of the action to the sideline. I'll take it a step further here and note that the ball is being taken out of the air way before it gets close to an Atlanta receiver.

After all, when the ball does reach one of our pass-catchers, it, at the very worst, is hitting Michael Jenkins in the hands; Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White will prevent a takeaway with strong hands pretty much every time.

This places the blame more squarely on the quarterback, as he's obviously not surveying the midfield well enough before launching, or he's attacking at the wrong trajectory.


Or does it mean all that? Could these picks be just about defenders stranded in no-man's land and happening to be in the right spot at the right time? We certainly saw just that occur when Marshall picked it, and also twice in the Saints game with the interceptions by Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer.

Please don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to explain away our troubles to mere chance. As I said in the last edition of the column, Ryan's always-cool exterior must sometimes just be a well-crafted disguise. There's just no way this guy goes 9-to-11 over a six-game stretch, especially not with the best tight end in history and one of the top five wideouts on his side.

But just how much is luck playing into these picks?

Well, according to my calculations, it's approximately 33.289756 percent...

As if a number would even help us here!

The answer is:

I don't care; change the playcalling and, more importantly, Ryan's reads, and we don't even have to worry about that garbage.


Now you're probably assuming I want to place blame on offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, or, even more ludicrously, on head coach Mike Smith.

Wrong again. I just want to see greater variety and more options presented to Ryan when we are in passing situations. Like we don't have enough trustworthy receivers on the team to give the man three check-downs when it's necessary to go to the air?

For some reason, since the bye week we've gone away from the straight shots to Gonzo. Why, might I ask? This was what got us charging down the field late in both the Miami and home Carolina games, allowing the clock to keep running and some late points to be scored.

And I know it's un-Falcons-like, but presenting a running back as a bailout is starting to make more and more sense, at least on plays which don't involve Gonzalez. Considering Michael Turner is going to be replaced with Jason Snelling for the entirety of the game coming up at Giants Stadium, it's even more obvious now that this could help Ice from melting.

Far be it from me to proclaim myself the doctor to cure the Dirty Birds' offensive ailments, let alone the offensive savant Mularkey is, but things have to change when success is becoming sporadic and injuries are in the mix.

Let's get back to what had me writing love letters to pieces of the Atlanta aerial assault, not more of this cross-field nonsense.