Matt Ryan is not the problem

How much should Matt Ryan be blamed for the 2-6 start?

The Atlanta Falcons are 2-6 so far this season. There are a number of reasons why the team has failed, so there is plenty of blame to throw around. That does not exclude quarterback Matt Ryan, the face of the franchise.

Actually, it’s impressive that Ryan is on pace for that amount of yards considering Tony Gonzalez now works for CBS Sports and his other receivers have been banged up for most of the year. Harry Douglas has missed half the season with a foot injury. He has only 14 catches so far this season. Julio Jones has battled an ankle injury at times this season, while Roddy White has dealt with a number of issues all year long.

Ryan had a solid game to start the season against New Orleans. It was actually a record-setting day, as Ryan threw for 448 yards. Against the Bengals in week two, however, Ryan threw three interceptions and was 24-44. It was a bad performance. Then he bounced back against the Bucs in week three and was terrific, throwing 21 completions out of 24 attempts as the Falcons blew out Tampa Bay.

As the Falcons started the five-game losing streak against the Vikings, Ryan struggled again. He threw two interceptions and has a pick in every game since except in the loss to the Ravens. His worst game was against Chicago, as he completed only 51.4% of his passes. Then he’s thrown for 228 yards in both of the last two games, against the Ravens and Lions.

The Falcons are 7th in the NFL in pass offense, with 280 passing yards per game. Ryan is actually 8th in individual passing with 2,306 yards on the season.

Is it Ryan’s fault the Falcons are 2-6? No. Not at all. This guy is still a solid quarterback. The problem has been his protection. He’s been the victim of an offensive line disintegrating for the second straight season. How can he be productive if the offensive line is awful?

The expected starting line of scrimmage has been hit by injuries. Sam Baker and Joe Hawley are both gone with season-ending injuries. Backups Mike Johnson, Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz are also gone. Five offensive linemen on one roster being out for that long is hard for any quarterback to overcome.

Ryan now has James Stone, an undrafted free agent from Tennessee, as his starting center. Stone had a big penalty in the game against the Lions, but for the most part played well in his first NFL start. He’ll likely get the chance to start the rest of the season at a very important position.

The play of the guards has been decent, although the injury to Justin Blalock that kept him out a while did not help.

So Ryan has a bit of an excuse to explain some of the games where he’s been less than stellar.

But the Falcons have so many more issues on the list than the quarterback. Ryan is still a tremendous talent, and his ability to remain vertical is critical to this team having any chance at all at being successful.

The rest of the way the Falcons have to play the Bucs, the Panthers (twice), the Browns, Cardinals, Packers, Steelers and the Saints again. Only the Packers (9th) are in the top-half of the NFL in pass defense. The Cardinals are last in the NFL, which should give the Falcons a chance against a very good football team on November 30. Tampa Bay has the worst pass defense in the NFL, which should give the Falcons a chance this Sunday.

It’s hard to give Ryan a grade for the first half of the season, since the other things that have happened have impacted the record compared to Ryan simply not being very good. But there remains little doubt that Ryan’s ability to be productive still gives the Falcons their best chance to win each and every week.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and e-mail him at

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