Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is his own harshest critic.
He won’t point to a rash of tipped and mishandled passes that have led to a shoddy interception total and porous (minus-4, 29th in the NFL) turnover margin.
Even if he did, all of the team’s six turnovers are credited to the league’s reigning MVP. In addition, there’s a poor completion rate on deep passes, and the offense is getting stuck too often in the red zone.
During the team’s bye week, Ryan had a chance to consider all of those issues and how the team can improve its performance on third down-and-mid-range (6 to 10 yards) situations.
The tipped passes -- Mohamed Sanu (against Detroit ), Justin Hardy (Buffalo) and Tevin Coleman (Buffalo) – that led to interceptions have Ryan on pace for a career-high 20 interceptions. He threw seven last season.
Ryan doesn’t seem upset with the fluky plays.
“It’s one of those things,” Ryan said. “Sometimes, it happens, you know. That’s part of playing the game. Some times you have tipped balls. Some times you have some plays that don’t go your way.”
Ryan also was picked off by crafty Detroit free safety Glover Quin and tossed an ill-advised deep ball to Taylor Gabriel that was picked off by Buffalo safety Micah Hyde.
“It’s about being resilient,” Ryan said. “It’s about being mentally tough and continuing to stay aggressive. Doing the things that we’ve done to be at our best.”
Ryan doesn’t plan to change his approach.
“I think it will start to go our way,” Ryan said. “We just have to keep working at it.”
Ryan ranks in the top half of the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL with a minimum of 75 passing attempts, according to the analytics website Football Outsiders.
Football Outsiders evaluates quarterbacks according to a defense-adjusted yards-above-replacement (DYAR) measure, and Ryan has a 211 rating, which ranks 13th in the league. They also rank the quarterbacks, according to the defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), and Ryan has an 11.2 percentage rating, which also ranks 13th.
Ryan has completed 88 of 135 passes (65.2 percent) for 1,109 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 87.6, which ranks 16th among quarterbacks with 75 completions are more.
Ryan has been sacked eight times for minus-59 yards.
Through four games, he’s 3-of-15 on passes that traveled 20 or more yards downfield, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I wasn’t real good at math growing up, but it’s definitely an area that we can do better for sure,” Ryan said. “When we get our opportunities down the field we’ve been close, we just haven’t hit them. We have to keep taking our shots when they are there.”
One theory on the deep passes is that the Falcons didn’t get them timed well because wide receiver Julio Jones and Gabriel missed most of the offseason with injuries. Now, Ryan believes more time together in practice will certainly help.
“When you have explosive guys on the outside, teams that you’re playing against know that they are explosive as well,” Ryan said. “The way I look at it is, when we get the opportunity to throw the ball down the field, we have got to make the plays. …The ones that we have had, we’ve haven’t hit as many as we need to. That’s something that we can work on in practice and get better at.”
The Falcons have scored touchdowns on 57.14 percent of their trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, which ranks 11th in the league. Green Bay is tops at 78.95 percent.
“One of the things that you can certainly control is procedural penalties down in that area,” Ryan said. “That’s all about focus and concentration. We can certainly improve in that area. If we just do that, I think we can be better. Not putting ourselves behind the chains.”
Ryan also believes the team’s execution could be better in red zone.
The Falcons are converting on 43.18 percent of their third downs, which ranks eighth in the league.
“I think we can be better on third downs, myself included,” Ryan said. “I think when we have opportunities to keep drives going, specifically in that third-and-6 to 10 range, we can be better than we’ve been. I can be better than I’ve been up until this point.
“That’s probably the No. 1 thing of all the things that we looked at that can help us win games right away.”