ATLANTA – In most cases, a team goes as their quarterback goes. That couldn’t be more true for the Atlanta Falcons through two preseason games in the 2012 season. While Matt Ryan has done an exceptional job, up to this point could just be the tip of the iceberg.
In the Falcons’ first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, Ryan went 9-for-13 for 155 yards. Ryan followed that performance up by going 18-for-21 for 174 yards Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The encouraging thing about Ryan’s performances is how he has gotten the job done.
Against the Ravens, Ryan and Julio Jones single-handedly dominated Baltimore’s first-team defense. Ryan hit Jones six times for 109 yards and a 7-yard touchdown. All within the span of one quarter of play.
Against the Bengals, Ryan spread the ball out to his arsenal of receivers to rack up the yardage. His 174 yards were spread around nine receivers with the touchdown strike landing in fullback Lousaka Polite’s hands.
Although it is still preseason, Ryan has shown not only his normal year-to-year progression, but just how much better he can be under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s new scheme.
“I think we’ve improved since we got here two and a half weeks ago, three weeks ago, whatever it is now. We’ve continued to get better,” said Ryan. “We’ve improved day to day and I think that’s the key. You want to keep getting better and start playing good football when you get to the regular season.”
The last few seasons, the biggest question about the Falcons was their identity. Some thought they were a better passing team, some thought they were better at running the ball. Ryan’s preseason success might be attributed to a new factor in the argument.
“Score points is our offensive identity, and I think again in preseason you work on some different things,” said Ryan. “You try and get comfortable with some different things. We’ve been trying to do that the first two games.”
While there is no doubt the Falcons have the talent to be special on offense, they struggled at times last season. Ryan understands the potential of this offensive unit and is determined to get the best out of it.
“For me, I’m just trying to make good decisions and be accurate with the football. We have really talented wide receivers and tight ends,” said Ryan. “My job is to try and get them the ball in a good spot to make a play with it. That’s where my focus has been at and I’m going to try and keep it there.”
Through two preseason games—in reality two preseason quarters and a small portion of a third—Ryan owns a 79 percent completion rate on 27 of 34 passing for 329 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Whether or not Ryan is elite has been questioned in the past. With a new coordinator in Koetter and a new focus behind him, 2012 may be the season Ryan ends the debate.