Has Matt Ryan finally hit the rookie wall?

Matt RyanThe Atlanta Falcons might be the story of the year in the NFL this season and Matt Ryan is a big reason why. But has the first-year quarterback finally hit the preverbal rookie wall?

Ryan was not particularly sharp in the Falcons’ last three regular season games, completing just 38 of 68 (55%) of his pass attempts for 500 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. In Atlanta’s 31-27 win over the Rams on Sunday, the rookie was just 10 of 21 passing for 160 yards and two interceptions.

A telltale sign that the Falcons might be playing things more cautiously with Ryan was apparent on their game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Down 27-24 with just under seven minutes remaining in the game, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey called runs on five of the six plays on the drive. Jerious Norwood then capped the drive off with a 45-yard touchdown run.

I love Ryan; I’ve waxed poetically about his accomplishments all season. And I don’t want to take anything away from him because what he’s been able to accomplish this year has been amazing. Some of the throws he’s made have been beyond impressive (see the Denver game for examples of what I’m talking about) and to play all 16 games as a rookie is nothing short of extraordinary. He’s also led a team that was 4-12 a year ago to an 11-5 record and the playoffs, and he’s even running the no-huddle offense with apparent ease.

That said, he seems to be making more rookie mistakes now than he did in the beginning of the season and maybe that’s because the Falcons are trusting him more with the offense and are opening up the playbook. But some of his throws in the second half Sunday against the Rams had nothing to do with the plays being called – they were just bad decisions. (Especially his second interception of the day, which was thrown off his back foot.)

I hope Ryan dazzles in his first playoff game in Arizona next week. He’s truly a special player and he’s great for the NFL. I just hope that rookie wall isn’t making an appearance at the most important point in his season.

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