When you live in a scarred sports city (Atlanta) and follow a franchise with a history of more doom than confetti (Falcons), great individual seasons are quickly forgotten.
That’s where Ryan is today. This has been, by any measure except for the Falcons’ record, the best season of his career. Statistically, he ranks at or near the top of all significant passer categories. His touchdown-interception ratio: 27-7 (3.9-1). Completion percentage: 68.6. Yards-per-attempt and efficiency rating: His yards per attempt (9.2) and efficiency rating (112.3) are easily at career highs.
Even if you, like most people this side of astrophysicists, don’t understand the efficiency rating formula, just know that Ryan has never broken 100 in eight previous seasons. He is the centerpiece of the NFL’s only offense averaging more than 30 points per game (32.2).
But games like last week tend to bring the masses back to the baggage. So suddenly the narrative changes from “The Falcons’ offense could cause teams problems in the playoffs,” to “They’re going to blow it again.”
Ryan says he has moved on. Falcons coach Dan Quinn never doubted that would happen. But he sent Ryan a text message after the game, just to reaffirm his support.
“I wanted him to know I had his back,” Quinn said. “It’s tough when you go through it, but a game never comes down to one play. He’ll be back.”
Ryan said of Quinn’s text message, “It was just: ‘I know you’re hurting right now, but we’ll get back to work tomorrow and move onto L.A.’ But does it stink? Yeah.”
Ryan will be fine. The loss almost certainly will impact the Falcons standing down the line — if not their ability to make the playoffs or win the NFC South over Tampa Bay, at least their chances of hosting one or two games in the postseason.
But Ryan is a nine-year veteran having an MVP-caliber season. It’s not likely his confidence is suddenly going to be shaken down the stretch.
“One thing I’ve learned is that, while you have to be self-critical, you don’t need to throw extra salt on the wound,” he said. “You can’t just keep beating yourself up. You know that last play wasn’t good. But there were about 70 other plays in the game that were really good and against a really good defense. More often than not, I’m going to make the play and that’s the mindset that you need to get yourself in.”
Ryan credited his former Boston College offensive coordinator, Dana Bible, for helping him put bad performances behind him, following his first start.
“My redshirt freshman year against Syracuse, I threw three or four interceptions in the first half,” he said. “If we won the game, we would’ve gone to the Fiesta Bowl. I was thrown into action and really struggled in the first half. After that game, (Bible) said, ‘You don’t know how much that’s going to help you in the future. I know it doesn’t feel good now but you’re going to be a much better player from this experience today because you’re going to know how to handle yourself in the future.’ I learned from it.”
As for making two bad decisions and/or throws in a season that has gone so well, Ryan said, “One thing I’ve learned is you get humbled every week in this league. Is that the first time that’s happened in my career? No. I’ve made pretty (bad) plays in my career. But I’ve moved on.”
Even if it seems nobody else has. Until the next game.