Something is wrong. Matt Ryan threw three interceptions, including a pick 6, as the Falcons squandered a 14-point third quarter lead falling to the Colts 24-21 at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
Nothing appears physically wrong with the 8-year veteran who has thrown 10 interceptions through 10 games this season one short of the 11 picks in his rookie year. Something ain’t right.
The only variable in the equation is the addition of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the drama surrounding Roddy White getting enough passes thrown his way.
Prior to the emergence of Julio Jones, White had been Ryan’s number one target. The pair had been a picture of consistency over the years as White went over one thousand yards receiving in six consecutive years beginning in 2007.
Through 10 games this season, the former number one receiver has a scant 21 receptions and 1 touchdown. At the current pace, White could finish the season with 33 catches and roughly 400 yards. Numbers that the 11-year vet hasn’t had since his rookie year when he posted 29 catches for 446 yards in 8 starts.
His lack of production has been the subject of discussion and controversy over the last several weeks. Fans on social media launched a #FreeRoddy campaign in response to the receivers perceived isolation. Around the Georgia Dome fans sport t-shirts and wave signs with Free Roddy or Free 84 (Roddy’s uniform number).
On Sunday, Ryan’s first three passes went to White on the Falcons first series of downs. Only one of the passes was completed and that was for a 5-yard gain. White was targeted 9 times during the game, second-most on the team behind the 15 passes thrown at Julio Jones.
Head Coach Dan Quinn shrugged off any notion that there was a concerted effort to get White involved in the passing game because of the well-publicized rumor of a rift with the receiver. “I totally realize the story-line there that you’re trying, but I want to let you know that we love the guy (White) and I know everybody’s trying and how of this and that,” said Quinn. “Matt does, I do, Kyle does. He’s an absolute competitor for us. There’ll be more games where that’s a factor.”
The game wasn’t lost on a number of times Roddy White was targeted, not scoring off turnovers, untimely penalties, and allowing the Colts defense a touchdown is what cost the Falcons their lead and eventually the game. “We didn’t get any points off of those turnovers today and I think that was a real factor in it,” reasoned Quinn.
Indianapolis tied the score thanks to an outstanding play by the Colts special teams unit that pinned the Falcons on the 1-yard line. Without the use of Freeman (concussion) and the running game struggling, the Falcons went to the play-action pass. Ryan’s pass intended for running back Tevin Coleman sailed high and into the hands of Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. Jackson returned the pick for a game-tying touchdown. “Obviously, I did not see D’Qwell Jackson popping back out off the line of scrimmage, but it is just a play I cannot make,” explained Ryan. “In critical situations, you cannot turn the ball over, and I have to be better than that.”
Of course, Ryan accepted the blame for his miscue because that’s what quarterbacks and leaders are supposed to do. He didn’t question the play call and throw his offensive coordinator -Kyle Shanahan- under the bus even though he could have and not one fan would have blamed him.
Despite his coaching resume, Shanahan arrived at Falcons headquarters with a trunk full of baggage. In an article by Mike Florio, NBC Sports, former quarterbacks Jake Plummer and Donovan McNabb cited Shanahan’s inability to adapt his offense to the abilities of the team’s quarterback. Is that what is happening with Matt Ryan?
In 2014, Ryan threw far more passes of 20 yards and over than he has so far this season regardless of the situation. Julio Jones caught twice as many passes over 20 yards in both wins and losses in 2014. In five home games during the 2014 season, Roddy White caught 32 passes for 370 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 6 passes in excess of 20 yards. This season over the same number of home games, White has caught 14 passes for 163 yards and 0 touchdowns.
But you don’t need stats to explain that Ryan has not gone deep with his passes as many times this season as he has in the past. Whatever is wrong with the Falcons offense, Shanahan needs to fix it before the Vikings and Panthers arrive.