Matt Ryan has a Cardinals problem

Christian Petersen

Matt Ryan and the Falcons are probably glad they don't play in the NFC West; the Cardinals seem to have his number.

Matt Ryan is one of the more prolific passers in the NFL, except when he's playing the Arizona Cardinals. Despite posting huge numbers during the last four seasons and playing his way into the conversation about the best quarterbacks in the league, Ryan has crumbled in his last two games against the Cardinals.

Ryan was intercepted four times during Atlanta's 27-13 loss to Arizona on Sunday and shockingly enough, that performance was better than his effort against the Cardinals last season. He threw a career-high five interceptions against Arizona in 2012, giving him a 1:9 touchdown to interception ratio spanning his last two games against Arizona. He's never thrown more than three interceptions against any other opponent.

What have the Cardinals done to turn Ryan into an interception machine? Here are two reasons for Arizona's success.

Pressure, pressure and more pressure

Ryan, like most quarterbacks, is at his best when he has a clean pocket and time to throw. With an excellent defensive line and plenty of defensive speed, the Cardinals did an outstanding job of harassing Ryan, often times into mistakes. Arizona spent most of Sunday's game in Atlanta's backfield, pressuring Ryan on a ridiculous 28 of 66 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. The Cardinals pressured Ryan on 12 of 47 dropbacks last season. Here is a closer look at how Ryan's fared under pressure against Arizona.

Completion % Yards Per Attempt Touchdown % Interception % Passer Rating
Under Pressure 38.2 3.4 2.9 11.8 18.25
Not Pressured 67.1 6.7 0.0 6.8 57.28

Ryan put up just modest numbers when he wasn't pressured, but he was decidedly worse when he was under duress. All of his numbers drop significantly except for touchdowns, where he threw one under pressure, compared to none otherwise.

Force Ryan to throw

A lot of offensive success in the NFL comes when the opposing defense doesn't know what's coming. Whether it  doesn't have the right personnel on the field and a team exploits a mismatch, or it bites on play action, creating some confusion is important. Ryan and the Falcons haven't had the benefit of disguise against Arizona, partly due to Arizona's solid front seven.

The Cardinals are fifth in the NFL in rush defense this season. Atlanta is last in the NFL in rushing and the combination led to the Falcons gaining just 27 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Atlanta rushed for just 58 yards on 24 attempts against Arizona last season. Given Atlanta's nonexistent rushing attack, the Cardinals had the benefit of playing the pass and allowing the defensive line to stop the run.

Arizona scored 21 points in the second quarter, forcing Atlanta to attempt a comeback. Down 15 points at halftime, the Falcons ran the ball just four times in the second half, forcing Ryan to throw 36 times over the final 30 minutes. All four of his interceptions came in the second half.

More from SB Nation NFL

NFL power rankings: Broncos back on top

The Post-Mortem: Atlanta is truly a town of history

Trade deadline: Nicks, Gordon and the big names to watch

NFL draft stock report: Separation at the top | Draft order

Takeaways: Contenders emerge at season's midpoint

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.