Matt Ryan or Julio Jones? Who have you got as the Atlanta Falcons’ MVP so far in 2015? Both have played lights out and have led the team to a 3-0 start this year. Ryan is as steady as ever of course, while Julio looks like he is the best receiver in the NFL, bar none. His three game tear has made mockeries of the NFC East’s secondaries with 34 catches, a three game record.
No doubt that Atlanta would not be where they are without their incredible QB / WR duo. That said, the Falcons’ MVP so far has to go to the offensive line.
This so called patchwork O-line has done an incredible job of keeping Matt Ryan safe so he has time to actually find Julio Jones. Hard to set NFL reception records when your quarterback is running for his damn life like Ryan was the past two years. Look no further than the last regular season game of 2014 against Carolina for an example of the worst blocking you may ever witness.
Ryan was sacked six times in that debacle of a contest. Compare that to just two sacks over the first three games of 2015 and you can see just how much this year’s offensive line has evolved.
Pro Football Focus has Atlanta’s O-line at number one in pass-blocking efficiency and total pressures allowed. That makes me happy as a Falcons fan and it probably helps Matt Ryan‘s wife sleep better at night knowing her hubby isn’t getting hammered by nasty defensive ends every seven plays like last year.
Chris Morgan is the new offensive line coach in Atlanta and shares this early season glory with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Morgan was the assistant O-line coach in Seattle and came over to the ATL with Dan Quinn and we all know how the rushing game went at Beastmode central. And in case you think all the credit should go to Marshawn Lynch, Morgan was also a part of Washington’s Alfred Morris’ back to back 1,000 yard seasons.
That cannot be a coincidence, especially considering the Falcons’ O-line is rated third in run-blocking at PFF. Morgan and Shanahan made Devonta Freeman look like Marshall Faulk last week against Dallas. The holes that were opened for Freeman were a thing of beauty and allowed him to operate without defenders on him at the line of scrimmage. The offense is what kept the team in the game as the defense struggled mightily in the first half, giving up 28 points to the Cowboys.
I have said for the past three years that the Falcons were built in the image of the Patriots. They were constructed with the mindset of outscoring teams, with less focus on the defense. That is the right approach in today’s NFL where the offense has tremendous advantages due to the safety rules.
If the offensive line can continue to do their job at a high level, the Atlanta offense can score with anyone in the League. Yes, even the Patriots and Packers.
Of course the Atlanta defense has to do its job, but does not need to hold teams to ten points a game, an impossible task in today’s NFL.
Before I get way ahead of myself and have Arthur Blank holding the Lombardi Trophy in February, I know the season is very young. I also know that the Birds have played some less than intimidating defenses. The Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys are not even close to the top ten defenses when it relates to sacks. Dallas and NY are actually in the bottom four of the entire NFL.
If I were Arthur Blank I would give Chris Morgan a raise if week four results in another standout game from his offensive line. If Matt Ryan‘s jersey remains clean he should make sure his guys up front have new Rolex watches on Monday morning. That’s not a joke.
To get results like Tom Brady, you have to have time to get the ball out on each and every play. That is part of what makes Brady look so good. If he were victimized by defensive pressure like Ryan has been the past couple of years, Brady would have looked average at best.
I don’t know if Atlanta’s O-line can keep up this phenomenal turnaround for 13 more regular season games. Each week holds different matchups that could exploit some weaknesses. If these guys can hold up though, Matt Ryan will have the best season of his career, while Julio wrecks receiving records along the way.
While I wait for Sunday’s kickoff I think I will go ahead and start a crowd funding campaign to get those watches for the O-line, just in case Matty Ice drops the ball.