ATLANTA -- Matt Ryan completed 78 percent of his passes in a 28-20 victory over Carolina at the Georgia Dome on Sunday and threw for three touchdowns in one half for the first time in his career – both career firsts.
But in hearing the second-year quarterback talk after the game one would not detect anything remotely resembling triumphalism. To the contrary, the perfectionist in him made it sound as if he were disappointed in his performance.
"I think I've got a long way to go," he said when asked to evaluate where he is right now. "Something I learned when I was young is that the tape is never as good as you think it's going to be and it's never as bad. So even though you think that you might have completed a lot of passes, there's still a lot of room for improvement and I see that every Monday when I get in to watch tape. I feel like I've been getting better, no question about that, but I feel like I can still can continue to improve and play a lot better than I'm playing right now."
If that's the case, then opposing defense should be frightened. Here's where Ryan stands after two games: The Falcons are 2-0 for the first time since 2006 and Ryan is 43-of-63 (68 percent) for 449 yards with five touchdowns and one interception, which he threw on Sunday.
In the victory over the Panthers, he completed 13 consecutive passes from the 6:09 mark of the second quarter until 13:11 remained in the fourth. During that time period, the Falcons went from trailing by 10-7 to building the lead they would never surrender. He even put his shoulder into the line on two occasions to collect two huge fourth-down conversions on quarterback sneaks.
But in his postgame comments he mentioned a number of times how much work he has to do and how many improvements he and the offense can make. He accepted blame for virtually his lone mistake – the interception, saying he eye-balled intended receiver Marty Booker – and self-deprecatingly called his 9-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White "a duck."
"It probably wasn't the first touchdown pass I've thrown that wasn't a tight spiral and it probably won't be the last," he said.
When asked about his streak of completions, he said he was unaware of how many it was and deflected credit to his receivers and offensive line.
"It was good rhythm," he said. "I didn't know it was 13. It's a good rhythm. I thought we did a good job of getting open, running our routes at the right depth.
Protection was very good. It was detailed.
"When you're going to complete a bunch of passes in a row, it requires great concentration by everyone around you: great routes, great protection, guys doing what they're supposed to do, sight adjustments, all those kinds of things. I felt like we did a pretty good job of that today."
Insofar as Ryan talked about the need for improvement, he sounded as if he were following the script of Head Coach Mike Smith who said:
"And I can assure you this: When we get back to [the team's practice facility at] Flowery Branch tomorrow we'll be talking more about the miscues than the good plays because we have a lot of things we can improve on."
On the positive side, Smith said Ryan distributed the ball "very well," as seven receivers caught passes, and credited Ryan for getting "us in and out of some good plays."
After a Week 1 in which Ryan completed a lower percentage of his passes (61 percent) and failed to connect with an open White on one glaring deep ball and uncharacteristically misconnected a few other times with open receivers, Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey said the offense was not "in synch exactly with our timing."
In that regard, Ryan said the offense showed some improvement.
"I think we were [more in synch]," he said. "We knocked off the opening-game rust, the excitement, everything that goes with that. It's good to get to Week 2."
After two games, the Falcons are averaging 23.5 points per game, but they left seven points off the board as a result of two missed field goals and a missed extra point in Week 1.
Thus, the feeling of untapped potential appears to gnaw at Ryan and the rest of the offense with those 13 straight completions standing as a titillating inkling of what could be possible.
"It's real good for us, man," White said of the completion streak. "We feel like we can do that a lot. I feel like we got in rhythm at times and at times we took steps back. We can't do that. I just feel like we haven't put together that game yet that we need. We're doing pretty good out there, but we ain't where we need to be at yet."
MORE FROM THE FALCONS-PANTHERS GAME:
- GAMEDAY LIVE:More Falcons-Panthers coverage from AF.com
- GAME CENTER:Stats and more from the NFL.com Game Center
- FEATURE:Ryan knows his work is not done
- BLOG:Gameday thoughts from Managing Editor J. Michael Moore
- FIRST TAKE:Head Coach Mike Smith | Ryan | Snelling | Lofton | White
- NFL NETWORK:Highlights and more on the game from NFL Network
- INTERVIEWS:Turner | Houston | Finneran | Falcons-Panthers
- GAME NOTES:Official game notes from the Georgia Dome press box
- QUOTES:Thoughts from the Falcons locker room | Panthers
- INACTIVES:Game inactives and starters
- BOARDS:Talk about the game with other fans on FalconsLIFE