After missing the playoffs for three straight years, Matt Ryan took matters into his own hands this past offseason, spending more time with his pass-catchers and trying to make the most of his age-31 season.
He was rewarded with an 11-5 record, an NFC South championship and first-round playoff bye.
“Matt spent a lot of time in the offseason trying to get himself ready for this year,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “(He) looked at what his challenges were and what he needed to adjust. I was so proud of how he approached it. He spent a lot of time out in Cali with some very important people there, and he spent a lot of time with our guys here as well. He took our receivers and our tight ends down into Florida and they did a passing camp. He was just really good about bringing everyone together and really trying to get everyone on the proverbial same page in Kyle Shanahan’s system.”
Ryan finished second in the league in passing yards (4,944) and passing touchdowns (38) and led the league with a gaudy 9.26 yards per pass attempt. Tom Brady (8.23) and Kirk Cousins (8.11) were the only other players who averaged at least 8.0 yards per attempt.
“It really came together this year,” Dimitroff said. “It was really fun to see. This is a big year for him playoff-wise, and I think Matt has really continued to grow. I’m really looking forward to how he handles himself in the playoffs.”
Ryan and the Falcons also benefitted from the best running back combo in the league. Devonta Freeman had 1,500+ total yards, Tevin Coleman had 900+ total yards and they combined for 24 touchdowns (19 rushing, five receiving).
That duo will need to be in top form this Saturday when Atlanta hosts Seattle in the divisional playoffs.
“All season, we’ve been really focused on maintaining that run game,” Dimitroff said. “In past years, we haven’t been as adept in that area. We continue to grow and grow and have two guys toting the rock that you know (are dangerous). If it’s not Devonta Freeman slashing, cutting, moving through the defense, it’s Tevin Coleman, who can just literally fly. It’s fun to watch both of those guys with the toughness and the competitive urgency that they have running the ball. That’s been fun to watch. There’s no question that it’s important. There’s no question that that running game has been very important for Matt’s throws and Matt’s production this year and our team’s production. So I think it’s always important. It’s important for their side. They did a hell of a job last week. Rawls was running like crazy. I think this is going to be a really nice matchup.”
Kickoff is at 4:35 p.m. ET.