The Falcons began the 2011 season with a 2-3 record. This was essentially the same team that led the NFC last season, going 13-3. If anything, this team should have improved with the additions of defensive end Ray Edwards and wide receiver Julio Jones.
In the first five games, Ryan had just seven touchdowns and nine turnovers, hardly the Matt Ryan that had been commanding the Falcons the last three years.
This was primarily due to a lack of consistency on the offensive line.
As if losing Harvey Dahl in free agency wasn't enough, the Falcons have had injuries to both center Todd McClure and left tackle Sam Baker.
Through 11 games, the Falcons have had only two offensive linemen start each game of the season, but they have been able to rectify this over the last six weeks.
Despite being forced into the lineup due to injuries, left tackle Will Svitek and right guard Joe Hawley have stepped in and provided immediate results.
In the first five weeks of the season, Matt Ryan was sacked 14 times; in the last six games, he's been sacked only eight times. Ryan has taken advantage of the extra time in the pocket by having the best six-game stretch in his NFL career.
Over that stretch, Ryan has had 13 touchdowns, four interceptions and is averaging 264 yards per game. Although not quite the record-setting pace of Rodgers and company, Ryan is right there in the next pack of great quarterbacks.
Since coming into the league in 2008, Ryan has ranked in or near the top 10 in most statistical categories.
With his play over the last quarter-and-a-half of the season, he is quickly moving up the ranks. If he continues the way he has played as of late, he will have career bests in yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and quarterback rating.
Perhaps what is most impressive about Matt Ryan is actually not his passing stats, but the simple fact that when he plays, the Falcons win.
In the 42 years prior to drafting Matt Ryan, the Falcons were unable to ever put together back-to-back winning seasons. If the Falcons continue this run they are currently on, they will have had four consecutive winning seasons since drafting Ryan.
Matt Ryan boasts an impressive 70 percent winning percentage in the NFL. This is third-best amongst active quarterbacks behind only Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, and sixth-best all time.
While it's fair to say he has some work to do in the playoffs before earning the tag of "elite," Matt Ryan appears to have begun elevating himself from a good quarterback to a great quarterback.
Considering Ryan is in only his fourth season in the NFL, it's safe to say the sky is the limit for him and the Falcons organization.
**I'd like to credit the poster TheProf on the Atlanta Falcons Message Boards for the research on winning percentage**
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