ATLANTA (CBS46) -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent much of Thursday night's game where he's spent much of the season, on his back. The Falcons surrendered nine sacks to the New Orleans Saints in the Thanksgiving game.
Yes, you read that right, he was sacked NINE TIMES!
Those nine sacks tied for the most in a game in Ryan's professional career.
Coming out of college, Ryan was known as "Matty Ice" for his cool and calm demeanor in the pocket and his ability to distribute the ball in crunch time. While he still has that ability, for the past few seasons; he's been running for his life when he takes the snap from center.
It's so bad, that when Ryan was intercepted by Shy Tuttle in the third quarter; his attempted tackle to help his team turned into a meme when he got demolished by a stiff arm.
Sadly, that video image pretty much sums up Ryan's career in Atlanta since Kyle Shanahan left to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
How bad has it been for Ryan this season? In 2018, Ryan was sacked 42 times. In 2019, with four games still remaining, he's been sacked 38 times. Eighty-plus sacks in two seasons will make even the greatest quarterbacks gun shy and prone to interceptions and turnovers.
It's not that the Falcons haven't tried to help Ryan. He has two phenomenal receivers, a decent set of tight ends when healthy, and the team has spent three first round picks in recent years on offensive linemen. But, rookie guard Chris Lindstrom didn't make it to week two before he was placed on injured reserve. And the Falcons' investment in rookie tackle Kaleb McGary is not paying big dividends either.
While it's bad for Ryan, the Falcons' running game is dreadful and disappears for large parts of games. The team ranks 31st in the league averaging just 72.9 rushing yards per game. The only team worse than the Falcons running the ball? The tanking Miami Dolphins who have retreads and never-has-beens on its offensive line.
With the 2019 season almost mercifully over, the Falcons have to turn to free agency and the draft again to try to fill in the offensive line. Assuming Lindstrom comes back healthy, the team should be set at left guard and both tackle positions, unless they deem an upgrade from Jake Matthews is necessary.
If the Falcons turn to free agency for help, they could try to pry Brandon Scherff away from the Redskins, or target someone like Bryan Bulaga if he can show he's healthy and leaves Green Bay. But those will be major investments if either makes it to free agency, and that likely isn't a smart move for the Falcons to invest more money into the offensive line.
Atlanta has multiple holes on defense that will be the priority in free agency, but one position that should be at the top of the list will be running back. Devonta Freeman has shown he can't carry the full load as a feature back and may be replaced by someone younger or more prepared to be a feature back and take some of the heat off Ryan.
It's going to be a long offseason for Falcons fans, but hopefully, the team can address enough positions of need to keep Ryan vertical through more parts of the game.