Matt Ryan is 1-2 this season. He's never been 1-3 as a collegian or a pro.
Not at Boston College, where he was a major part of the last relevant era of Eagles football. Not with the Falcons, who moved beyond the Michael Vick mess with Ryan as their franchise quarterback.
If the Falcons lose to the Patriots on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome, it will be the first time Ryan has been two games under .500.
(Actually, it's possible Ryan was 1-3 at Penn Charter School in suburban Philadelphia. "I don't remember," Ryan said, laughing.) In reality, it's not Ryan who is 1-2 but the Falcons. He doesn't block, tackle, call plays or coach the team. Ryan doesn't decide which players to draft or sign to contracts.
But Ryan is the quarterback, and from Pop Warner leagues to the NFL that means something. Falcons coach Mike Smith said he believes his team has "a leader in every room." "But undoubtedly Matt, as the quarterback, is going to be the one that everybody is going to look to first," Smith said.
That's why the team's wins and losses become the quarterback's wins and losses. Ryan's .703 winning percentage ranks second only to Peyton Manning (.813) and Tom Brady (.779) since 2008.
Ryan is celebrated for the 16 fourth-quarter comeback victories with the Falcons, providing more evidence for the "Matty Ice" nickname he earned as a high school baseball player. Brady, winner of three Super Bowl titles, notes that even he doesn't have a cool nickname.
"'Matty Ice' is pretty sweet," Brady said.
The Falcons have built a team around Ryan to take advantage of his talents. He's been named to two Pro Bowl teams.
Because of all of that, he's 1-2 just like the Falcons.
"I understand that and all that goes along with it," Ryan said. "I'm of the opinion that if I had played better, we are not 1-2." It's difficult to see how much more Ryan can do. His production has been strong, his mistakes few and his value clear in important situations.
In the season-opening loss at New Orleans, Ryan made a succession of throws into tight spots while being pressured to get the Falcons in position to win. Steven Jackson dropped his potential game-winning touchdown catch.
Against the Rams, Ryan completed eight consecutive passes for 62 yards to set up the touchdown that finished the victory. At Miami, Ryan's nifty shovel pass to Jason Snelling and a pass to Levine Toilolo in the back of the end zone were the only Falcons touchdowns.
There are a few nits to pick because Ryan hasn't been perfect.
Against the Dolphins, Ryan probably left the pocket too soon before throwing away a pass on third down, which led to a field goal. Two plays earlier, he probably could have stood up against pressure for a beat longer instead of rushing a throw that missed Tony Gonzalez for a sure touchdown.
"I'm certainly very critical and always feel I can play better and improve and be better than I am," Ryan said. "But it's a fine line between beating yourself up so bad you lose confidence. I do it in a way (that) it doesn't waver the confidence." Ryan bears the pressure of being the quarterback while at the same time shielding his teammates from scrutiny. Take, for instance, his discussion of the team's problems scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Ryan talked about what needs to be better, but didn't get too specific lest it appear he's criticizing teammates, and he also said he needs to be better.
By contrast, Brady has drawn national attention for becoming visibly angry with his young wide receivers during games because of their mistakes. Falcons tackle Jeremy Youngblood, Ryan's teammate at Boston College, said Ryan is "cool and collected, all business" on the field.
Ryan said he's "not a pushover" with teammates, but he doesn't look to call them out publicly.
"You are not going to hear it from me," Ryan said. "You are not going to hear me talk about other guys. You are not going to hear me talk about coaches or anything like that. It's not who I am." Ryan is the quarterback, though, and he's never been 1-3.
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