Falcons: Matt Ryan is not free of blame in loss to Eagles

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There were notable offensive line struggles in the Falcons’ home-opening loss to the Eagles. The Philadelphia defensive line bullied Matt Hennessy, Kaleb McGary, and most embarrassingly, Jalen Mayfield. The first two drives were impressive and showed glimpses of what Arthur Smith’s innovative offense could look like in Atlanta, but both of those drives stalled in the red zone. Then, Atlanta had little to no success when they had the ball.

There seems to be plenty of finger-pointing from fans and media, mainly directed at the offensive line and coaching staff. Rightfully so, but Matt Ryan is not free of blame by any means. It wasn’t the veteran’s best outing, and yes, I know that he was under duress for much of the afternoon, but there was much left to be desired.

Ryan finished the game by completing 21 of his 35 attempts for 164 yards and no touchdowns. Moreover, his 60% completion percentage was among the ten worst quarterbacks in Week 1. Two Next Gen Stats that I frequently use when analyzing quarterback play is Expected Completion Percentage (xComp) and Completion Percentage Above Expectation (xComp +/-). Here are the definitions from Next Gen Stats.

Expected Completion Percentage (xComp) gives an indication of the level of difficulty of a quarterback’s throws. A high xComp indicates a quarterback’s propensity to throw higher probability passes, while a low xComp tells us a quarterback has a tendency to take more chances. As discussed in our introduction to Completion Probability, the level of difficulty of a specific throw is determined by in-play features specific to each play. xComp is simply the average Completion Probability within a given set of passes.

Completion Percentage Above Expectation (xComp +/-) measures a quarterback’s performance relative to the difficulty of their throws on an aggregate level. We can improve our understanding of the traditional football box score by comparing a quarterback’s Actual Completion Percentage to their Expected Completion Percentage. In other words, how did a quarterback perform relative to expectations over the course of a season, game, or situation?

Ryan’s xComp from the Week 1 loss to the Eagles was 68.8%, which was higher than Jalen Hurts and the seventh-highest among quarterbacks in Week 1. This means that Ryan was throwing higher probability passes, not taking as many chances as someone like Kyler Murray (61.2% xComp). Ryan’s xComp +/- was among the league’s worst in Week 1.

His -8.8% was the third-lowest among quarterbacks in Week 1, only ahead of Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. So not only was he throwing what could be considered safe passes, he wasn’t completing them. The entire offensive line needs to play better against Tampa Bay, but so does the team’s leader — Matt Ryan.

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