Matthew Thomas “Matty Ice” Ryan, QB #2
Hometown: Exton, Pennsylvania
College: Boston College
Experience: 5th year
Selected by the Falcons third overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, expectations were high for the former Boston College Eagle quarterback. With a college record of 25-7, the Falcons were hoping the 2007 ACC Player of the Year would continue his winning ways for Atlanta after the disastrous 4-12 2007 campaign. Ryan didn’t disappoint.
Starting all 16 games for the Falcons in 2008, Ryan led the team to the playoffs with an 11-5 regular season record and was selected as the 2008 NFL Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Atlanta fans had to know good things were in store for the franchise when Ryan’s first NFL pass turned into a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 2000 on a Hail Mary throw by then-New England Patriots quarterback Michael Bishop.
Ryan finished his rookie regular season with more than 3,400 yards passing, 17 touchdowns (16 passing, 1 rushing) and 11 interceptions, and became the first rookie quarterback to start all 16 regular-season games and make the playoffs (Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco accomplished this feat also in 2008). Ryan also became just the second quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards as a rookie (Peyton Manning was the first). In his first NFL playoff game, Ryan set another NFL rookie record with the most completions in a playoff game (26) in a losing effort to the Arizona Cardinals.
Ryan had somewhat of a sophomore slump in 2009. Passing for fewer than 3,000 yards, Ryan accounted for 23 touchdowns (22 passing, 1 rushing), but he threw 14 interceptions. Atlanta finished the season with a record of 9-7, the first time the franchise ever had consecutive winning seasons, but failed to make the playoffs.
The 2010 season was a banner year for Ryan. Throwing for more than 3,700 yards, Ryan had a then-personal best 28 touchdown passes with a career-low nine interceptions for the year. Atlanta finished the regular season with a 13-3 record, second only to the 14-2 Patriots.
Ryan set four Falcons franchise single season records that year including most 4th quarter comeback wins in a single season (5), most game winning drives in a single season (6), fewest interceptions in a regular season by starting QB with 16 starts (9) and most wins in a regular season by a starting QB (13). For his efforts, Ryan was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time and threw two touchdown passes in the Hawaii game.
The Falcons would lose the divisional round of the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers 48-21. In that playoff game, Ryan was 20-30 for 186 yards throwing one touchdown and two interceptions.
Ryan’s offensive numbers continued to improve in the 2011 season. Ryan threw for more than 4,100 yards and accounted for 31 touchdowns (29 passing and 2 rushing, both career-highs) and was responsible for 12 interceptions. The Falcons clinched a wild card berth finished the regular season 10-6.
Atlanta’s one-and-done playoff slump continued with the Falcons losing again to the eventual Super Bowl Champions (this time the New York Giants) in a lopsided 24-2 game.
Off the field, Ryan continues to contribute to the Atlanta community. He is a part of the Falcons online reading program, “Read with a Falcon,” and as part of the NFL’s Play 60 movement, created “Folleyball,” a combination of volleyball, football and the game “500.”
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.