Matt Ryan earns franchise’s first MVP award

Falcons QB Matt Ryan has been named NFL MVP.
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Falcons QB Matt Ryan has been named NFL MVP.

The night before playing in his first Super Bowl, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, after a spectacular campaign in his ninth season in the league, was named the NFL’s most valuable player Saturday night at Wortham Theater Center.

“This is an incredible honor for me,” Ryan said in a prerecorded message. “Obviously, there are so many other great candidates and players who had amazing seasons. I want to thank all of (my) teammates. Obviously without them, none of this is possible.”

With Ryan leading the way, the Falcons went 11-5, won the NFC South, seized No. 2 seed for the playoffs and stormed through the postseason.

“Matt has been unbelievable this year,” Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He started out strong and he’s only gotten better and that’s what has been more impressive to me. He’s done it from Week 1 to Week 16. He’s done it in the playoffs.”

Ryan did not attend the NFL honors program.

“We’ve had so many guys on our team make great plays and have great seasons for us, so thank you to those guys,” Ryan said in his statement. “Big thank you to my wife for the support that she gives me throughout the entire year.

“Obviously I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without her, so thank you, Sarah, for all of that and to my family. Thank you for the continued support throughout the year. So appreciate it, thank you and I hope everybody has a great night.”

Ryan was earlier named the league’s most valuable player by the Professional Football Writers of America.

With some pinpoint accuracy, Ryan led the league’s top-scoring offense, setting franchise records in passing yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38).

“If you are looking at consistency this year, you can talk about Matt Ryan,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. “A lot of that is coming out of last year. I would say that it’s due to his offseason work that he put in himself, personally. … I think he and Kyle Shanahan have been on a much better communication path than they were in their first year. Matt’s understanding of the system is certainly greater than it was in Year One.”

Ryan is the first Falcons player to earn the PFWA honor. He started all 16 games and completed 534 of 373 passes (69.9 completion percentage; third in the NFL), with only seven interceptions and a 117.1 passer rating.

Ryan’s 117.1 rating was the fifth-highest in a season in NFL history. He had a passer rating of 100 or better in 12 games, tying Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former 49ers quarterback Steve Young for the most 100-plus rating games in a single season.

He led the NFL with 9.3 yards per pass attempt and set an NFL record by completing touchdown passes to 13 different receivers. He was selected as the NFC player of the month for September, NFC offensive player of the week twice (Weeks 9 and 17) and was selected to the PFWA’s 2016 All-NFL and All-NFC teams.

Ryan worked on improving his play after a shaky 2015 season. With a better understanding of the offensive attack, he maintained an extremely high level from the outset of the season.

“When you start out hot like that, it’s hard to keep it (going),” Shanahan said. “Not only has Matt kept it (going), he’s played his best ball near the end. The toughness that he’s had, the way he’s been a leader and the consistency that he’s had, the numbers match up with how good of a year he’s had. You can watch the tape, too. It’s just been fun to be around him.”

After the outstanding regular season, Ryan guided the Falcons to victories of Seattle and Green Bay in the playoffs.

“Matt is an unbelievable talent, first of all,” Shanahan said. “He went third in the draft for a reason. He’s one of those pure throwers and he’s very good at it. Matt is very tough. He’s durable. He hangs in there and takes a hit.”

Ryan, 31, also appears to be hitting his stride in the prime of his career.

“Just his makeup,” Shanahan said. “When Matt faces adversity, he gets better. He’s not going to sit and point fingers. He’s going to figure out how to work his way out of it. I think you’ve seen that throughout his career. I think you saw it last year. Matt gets better the more he works and he works as hard as anyone that I’ve been around.”

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan discusses his play and how he helped the team reach the Super Bowl. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter

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