They say that the modern NFL is more a passing league than ever, and you don't need to tell Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan twice. In Atlanta's Friday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan threw the ball an amazing 42 times in one half … and the Falcons lost the game, 34-19.
In fact, the Falcons couldn't even manage a lead in that first half, which might explain why Ryan was throwing the ball so much. The Steelers got out to a 10-0 lead before the Falcons even got on the board with a field goal, and then, they tied it up with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Roddy White:
Then, the Steelers kept scoring touchdowns, while the Falcons could only respond with field goals. This led to a 24-16 halftime score, in favor of the Steelers — and a few unlucky throws from Ryan. This throw that bounced off tight Michael Palmer on the way to receiver Harry Douglas was a good example — the ball would up in the waiting arms of linebacker Lawrence Timmons and almost resulted in an instant touchdown.
In the first half, Ryan completed 22 of his 42 passes for 210 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The regular-season record for attempts in a game is 70, by New England's Drew Bledsoe. Ryan certainly would have been on track to blow that record up, though the pass-happy trend revealed other issued. How is it that the Falcons could out-do the Steelers in first half first downs (17 to 9) and total offensive plays (52 to 27) and still come up short? Well, look at some of the target totals. Rookie Julio Jones had the most first-half targets with 13 … and he caught just five of them. White, for his part, had 10 targets and caught 8, for 101 yards and that touchdown.
Meanwhile, the real story of the game from a passing perspective was the two touchdowns caught by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. The second-year speedster torched Atlanta's secondary for 137 yards and two scores on just four catches.
Maybe that's a lesson for Matt Ryan — when it comes to the passing game, it's quality over quantity.