- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly examination of the Falcons' quarterback play.
Rewind: Ryan posted a season-low 47.2 passer rating in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It was the first time his passer rating has dipped below the 80s this season as he attempted a career-high 61 passes, completing 34 for 301 yards. Ryan threw a season-high four interceptions after entering the game with just three picks on the year. And this came a week after he was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week while posting a career-best 148.4 passer rating.
Fast-forward: There is optimism that wide receiver Roddy White will return from hamstring and ankle injuries sooner than later, which would significantly help Ryan’s cause. Asking Ryan to survive without Julio Jones (season-ending foot surgery) and White is a bit too much, no matter how capable Ryan is of making others around him better. It would help his cause, too, if the Falcons were able to put together some sort of a running game to give the offense much-needed balance. Steven Jackson rushed for only 6 yards on 11 carries in his return from a hamstring injury.
New target? It was a promising sign to see another unheralded receiver emerge for Ryan, even despite the loss at Arizona. Drew Davis set career-highs in both receptions (five) and yards (77) while being targeted seven times, second-highest on the team to emerging Harry Douglas (18 targets). Davis gained his quarterback’s trust with a one-handed catch down the sideline against Tampa Bay. Ryan needs contributions from every member of the receiving corps the rest of the way, Davis included.
Prediction: Ryan will rebound from his dismal showing in the desert, but it won’t necessarily translate into a victory at Carolina. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is playing at a high level and will face a struggling Falcons defense. It could be a shootout, but Newton has his full arsenal of weapons. Ryan doesn’t. For the record, Ryan is 7-3 versus the Panthers and once threw for 369 yards against Carolina.