Examining Matt Ryan's passes

I’ve been getting lots of notes in the mailbag from readers wondering why the Falcons don’t open up their offense and let Matt Ryan throw downfield more.

Those are questions only coach Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey can answer. However, I turned to our weekly numbers package from ESPN Stats & Information and found some interesting stuff on the Atlanta passing game.

First off, I think it’s fair to say the perception that the Falcons don’t throw downfield very much is actually reality. Ryan has attempted 12 passes of 21 yards or longer. I can’t find another quarterback who has started all of his team’s games who has attempted fewer passes in that category. For comparison, Washington’s Donovan McNabb leads the league with 30 such attempts, New Orleans’ Drew Brees has 26 and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman has 25.

Let’s look a little closer at Ryan’s numbers in this category. He has completed just three of those 12 passes (that’s 25 percent), but two of them have gone for touchdowns. That should tell you something right there because that’s good enough to give Ryan a 98.6 passer rating in those situations.

Now, let’s move to another category provided by the stat people that I think is extremely interesting. They also track pass attempts that range from 11 to 20 yards and that’s where Ryan is at his best.

He ranks third in the league with a 112.1 passer rating on those passes. He’s completed 32 of 56 attempts for 598 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. By the way, Freeman ranks second in the league in this category with a 120.1 passer rating.

Now, let’s move to the final category on passing and distance. That’s pass attempts of 10 yards or fewer. This is where Ryan has thrown the bulk of his passes, but the results haven’t been all that great. Ryan has completed 97 of 151 attempts in this category. That’s a respectable 64.2 percent and those passes have added up to 725 yards. In this situation, Ryan has four touchdowns and four interceptions. Perhaps most important of all, his passer rating is 73.4. That ranks No. 32 in the league.