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3 honest takeaways from Matt Ryan’s ugly performance vs Denver Broncos

Matt Ryan
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts are now, surprisingly, 2-2-1 on the season. And it is absolutely stunning that the team has two wins. A strong case can be made that the two wins were more about the opponent losing the game. One of the most shocking things to come from the Colts this season is the play of Matt Ryan.

The 15-year veteran quarterback has not looked anything even close to being a former MVP. His play has been hard to truly evaluate, as the offensive line has been an unmitigated disaster. Still, Ryan’s play has been bad, even if he hasn’t had time to throw or have a consistent run game. There are a few things we can take away from his performance on Thursday Night Football.

Another game with multiple turnovers

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
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Ryan has played five games with the Colts. Only once did he have a game where he didn’t commit two turnovers — the team’s first victory of the season. In this game, he threw two more interceptions and fumbled two more times. He now leads the NFL with 11 fumbles and seven interceptions. Somehow he’s only lost three fumbles. So he has ten total turnovers in his first five games of the season.

This is a 37-year-old quarterback who is a former MVP and took his team to the Super Bowl. The last time the Colts had a starting quarterback turn the ball over this many times through their first five games was in 1998. Peyton Manning had 12 interceptions to start his career.

His two interceptions are especially egregious for a player who’s been a starter for this long. They’re ones you’d see a young QB make. He’s also had some other throws that could have been intercepted if either the defender didn’t drop it or his receiver hadn’t bailed him out. Ryan has the third-highest rate (5.2%) of ‘turnover-worthy throws’ among QBs who have played at least 50% of their team’s snaps per Pro Football Focus.

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Matt Ryan is not playing like a veteran NFL quarterback

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
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While Ryan doesn’t have much time to operate behind a very porous line, he does need to do a better job of taking care of the football. One thing people were expecting from him is being able to play better and smarter football.

Meaning, knowing the down and distance, situational football, and being able to read defenses both pre and post-snap. So far, this has not been the case, as he took a couple of sacks to take his team out of field goal range. Again, this kind of play is something you’d expect from a rookie. Someone who is trying to make a play or learning how to play at the NFL level. 

There were many times during Manning’s career that fans saw him throw the ball away to avoid losing yardage. Sometimes, it resulted in the team having to punt or settle for a field goal. “Live to fight another day” is the cliche that comes to mind in these situations. 

Instead, Ryan is still harming his team more than he’s helping them. A perfect example of this is his completion percentage over expected. Early in the second half, he was at -9.2% on his 15 dropbacks. Coming into last night’s game, he was a -0.7%. 

After the game, he is now at 1%. It can be said that he is much closer to the end of his career than he or anyone else in the organization wants to admit. If the offensive line can remember who they are and how to do their job, then maybe Ryan has just enough left in the tank to finish his current contract.

Related: 2022 NFL offense rankings: Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs closing in on the top spot

The hits just keep on coming, no matter who’s protecting him

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
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However, if Ryan is consistently dropping back to pass and having a max of three seconds to process the defense, it won’t really matter. Now, no one was expecting him to be able to scramble like Lamar Jackson. But it was thought he could maneuver in the pocket to avoid the rush and getting sacked. 

Instead, he’s been sacked 21 times. The highest-paid offensive line is playing like they’re enjoying counting their money and not caring about their on-field performance. As of right now, the team has one, maybe two players that can play tackle at the NFL level. The rest of the linemen are guys who profile better as centers or guards.

Rookie Bernhard Raimann had a bad night; totaling four penalties. Matt Pryor has officially proven that his ‘21 season was a fluke. Braden Smith looks much better at right guard than tackle. And Danny Pinter looks better at center than Ryan Kelly, who left with a hip injury.

Since the Colts barely have two tackles, the team needs to make sure the communication on blocking is on the same page. There have been numerous times when that has not been the case. Kelly and Ryan need to be in sync with what they are seeing from the defense and how they’re going to block. At this point, it’s unclear who is making the protection calls.

The team also needs to adapt and adjust their play call. This falls on Frank Reich, whose playcalling is already being questioned again, and Matt Ryan. The team needs to either run more two tight end sets with Kylen Granson and Mo Alie-Cox. These guys need to at least chip on the opposing defensive ends or stay in and block.

If the team doesn’t want to do that, then they need to dial up some pass plays that get the ball out quickly. Since none of the team’s receivers are great at getting separation (mostly due to a lack of speed), this means they need to run some bunch formations or pick/rub plays. This can either be done by Reich or Ryan making sure the team gets into the best play.

There is a lot to clean up with the offense. Unfortunately, we’re already five weeks into the season. Hopefully, with this 10-day break in between games, the team can get healthy and shore up their offensive line problems. 

Whether that’s a lineup change or an adjustment in play calling, or both. Ryan’s play hasn’t been terrible overall, it’s just been exacerbated by everything else that is wrong with the offense. It can only get better from here, right?

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