Matt Ryan, a quarterback Pete Carroll says “is on fire,” leads the NFL in passing yards, average yards per game and passer rating as he prepares to face the Seahawks Sunday.
A few bio notes about mostly forgotten Sid Luckman, born Nov. 21, 1916 in Brooklyn, NY: Played college football as a single wing tailback at Columbia University in the mid-1930s, worked his way through school as a dish washer, baby sitter and delivery boy. . . Finished third in the 1938 Heisman Trophy vote . . . No. 1 pick by the Chicago Bears in the 1939 NFL draft . . . Originally declined to play, opting to work for his father’s trucking company.
Luckman changed his mind when Bears owner George Halas dangled in front of him a $5,500 annual contract, enhancing the lure by telling Luckman he was about to become the first T-formation quarterback in NFL history. Our guess: Luckman probably didn’t know what the T-formation was, since no team in those days ran the T, but he gave it a whirl, with the following results:
Six-time first-team All-Pro . . . NFL Most Valuable Player, 1943 . . . Three-time NFL passing TDs and yards leader . . . Four-time NFL champion (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946) . . . NFL All-Decade Team, 1940s . . . Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1965.
Luckman’s best year was 1943, when he threw for 2,194 yards and 28 touchdowns in only 202 attempts. That translated into a 107.5 passer rating, then an NFL record. Luckman’s best game was Nov. 14 against the New York Giants, when he became the first quarterback in NFL history with both a 400-yard passing game (443) and a seven-TD game.
Luckman held more than a dozen passing records when he retired in 1950, all but two erased by a parade of developing Hall of Famers, including Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Luckman’s 13.9 TD percentage in 1943 is still the single-season record. Rodgers (9.0 in 2011) and Brady (8.7 in 2007) have never come close. Neither did Manning. When he set the league record with 55 TD passes in 2013, his TD percentage was 8.3.
Luckman also still holds the NFL mark for yards gained per pass attempt, 10.9 in 1943. Montana’s best was 9.1 (1989) when he led the NFL. Marino’s best was 9.4 in 1984, when he threw 48 TDs. Brady’s best: 8.3 in 2007.
Now we have Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who leads the 4-1 Falcons against the 3-1 Seahawks Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Ryan is sitting at 10.36, a first down every time he throws, and only a shade behind Luckman’s 10.9.
Five games is a small sample size, but since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, only one quarterback posted a higher yards per attempt number through five than Ryan:
|2000||Kurt Warner||StL||14||11.80||3,429 yards, 21 TDs, 98.3 rating|
|2016||Matt Ryan||Atl||12||10.36||Also leads in yards, rating|
|1999||Kurt Warner||StL||15||9.98||4,353 yards, 41 TDs, 109.2 rating|
|2010||Philip Rivers||SD||11||9.61||4,710 yards, 30 TDs, 101.8 rating|
|2011||Tom Brady||NE||14||9.56||5,235 yards, 39 TDs, 105.6 rating|
|2011||Aaron Rodgers||GB||14||9.56||4,643 yards, 45 TDs, 122.5 rating|
|2013||Peyton Manning||Den||20||9.52||5,477 yards, 55 TDs, 115.1 rating|
|2015||Andy Dalton||Cin||11||9.49||3,50 yards, 25 TDs, 106.2 rating|
|2004||Dante Culpepper||Min||18||9.44||4,717 yards, 39 TDs, 110.9 rating|
|2004||David Carr||Hou||7||9.23||3,531 yards, 16 TDs, 83.5 rating|
|2001||Chris Chandler||Atl||7||9.2||2,847 yards, 16 TDs, 84.1 rating|
Ryan also leads the NFL in passing yards (1,740) and yards per game (348), ranks second in TD passes (12) and third in completion percentage (69.0) while tossing only two interceptions. His passer rating of 121.6 is also No. 1 (Russell Wilson led last year at 110.1).
“He’s off to a great start,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week. “He looks the best that he’s ever looked, but he’s had a lot of years where he’s been highly productive. He’s in that mode again, he’s really going. He’s clicking with the receivers, the running game is sharp and clean, the protections have been good.
“They move him a lot. He gets all over the place with their actions. It’s hard to zero in on him, and he’s taking full advantage of it. He looks like he’s as right as he’s been.”
“Matt Ryan has been having a phenomenal year,” added CB Richard Sherman. “So we’re going to have a good time with that challenge.”
Ryan has defeated both of last year’s Super Bowl participants. He threw for 503 yards (300 to Julio Jones) and four touchdowns while completing 75.7 percent of his passes in a 48-33 win over Carolina two weeks ago. He followed with a 98.4 passer rating in a 23-16 win at Denver Sunday, the first loss of the season for the defending champions.
Ryan orchestrated that victory despite completing a season-low 53.5 percent. In every other game, Ryan has hit at least 66 percent, including 76.4 (26 of 34) in a 35-28 win at Oakland.
“They’re on fire,” Carroll said of the Falcons. “This is a high-flying team right now. They’re on it. They had to endure some issues, too, guys were getting banged up and they overcame that. They had a fantastic win at Denver against an undefeated team. Their offense is just out of this world right now. “
Atlanta is averaging 35 points per game, No. 1 in the NFL. Inside that number: The Falcons are averaging a staggering 7.2 yards per play. The 2013 Seahawks, winners of Super Bowl XLVIII, averaged 5.6 (6.2 per play in the 43-8 win over Denver). Only three teams since 1960 had a better yards per play mark through five games than these Falcons.
|2000||Rams||5-0||217||8.50||Finished 10-6, lost in wild card round|
|2004||Vikings||4-1||150||7.24||Went 8-8, lost division playoff|
|2011||Patriots||4-1||165||7.23||Finished 13-3, lost SB to Giants|
|2016||Falcons||4-1||175||7.20||Beat SB champion Denver last week|
|1963||Browns||5-0||168||7.10||Went 10-4 under Blanton Collier|
|1963||Chargers||4-1||113||6.99||Finished 11-3, won AFC championship|
|1998||49ers||4-1||164||6.87||Went 12-4, lost divisional playoff|
|2013||Broncos||5-0||230||6.85||Routed by Seahawks 43-8 SB XVIII|
|1983||Packers||3-2||147||6.83||Finished 8-8 under coach Bart Starr|
|1989||Packers||3-2||148||6.82||Went 10-6, failed to make playoffs|
|2010||Chargers||2-3||140||6.81||Finished 9-7, failed to make playoffs|
Two glimmers of good news for the Seahawks: None of the charted teams won a Super Bowl and two finished 8-8 after getting off to fast starts. And while the Falcons have been soaring offensively, they allow 28 points per game, which ranks 26th out of 32, odd given head coach Dan Quinn’s pedigree as Seahawks defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl triumph. Still, the Seahawks won’t want to get into a shootout.
“(Quinn’s) got his guys playing very hard, which is cool to see,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “They run to the football, they hit, they create some turnovers. They’re doing a good job. It’s going to be fun.”
“Their quarterback is on fire,” added Carroll. “Overall, they’re doing a great job. I know Dan is fired up about it and we’re excited. It’ll feel like a championship matchup, just like we like.”