NFL MVP and AP Rookie of the Year both eliminated in first round of playoffs
Today in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Rookie of the Year Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons fell on the road to the Arizona Cardinals. Ryan was 26/40 for 199 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs, QB rating of 72.8.
On the road in San Diego, NFL MVP Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts fell to the on-fire San Diego Chargers. Manning was 25/42 for 310 yards with a touchdown, QB rating of 90.4.
Ryan had an amazing rookie year, one that will not be duplicated by another rookie passer any time soon IMO. He is poised to become one of the NFL's elite passers if he continues to grow and improve. Manning is just Manning - the guy is a surgeon out there and, with good protection, is able to drop the ball just about anywhere on the field to one of his many weapons.
But this just goes to show you that there's more to post-season glory than having an elite quarterback.
The Falcons helped their rookie quarterback this season by having the second most productive rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 152.7 yards per game and approx. 4.4 yards per carry. Today against the Cardinals, Atlanta could only muster 60 rushing yards for an average of 2.5 yards per carry. The Falcons' much improved pass protection didn't make the trip to Arizona either; Ryan was sacked three times today. Only two other times this year has Ryan been sacked three or more times in a game.
The Colts had the second worst rushing offense in the league this year, averaging 79.6 yards per game. They couldn't even match that total today, rushing for only 64 yards. Indianapolis came up with two turnovers, but converted them to 0 points. Indy's defense allowed 167 yards (4.9 ypc average) and three rushing touchdowns on the ground; only 25 of those yards and one of those touchdowns came from LT2. They completely lost their composure in overtime, committing at least two critical penalties that gave the Chargers first downs.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that these teams don't benefit from efficient and productive play from the quarterback position. Neither of these teams are in the playoffs if they don't have the production of Ryan or Manning this year, respectively.
But the Cardinals won today not just because Warner slung the ball all over the field, but because they rediscovered their rushing attack in Edgerrin James, made John Abraham a non-factor in the pass rush, and saw an improvement in their defense's ability to contain the run and get to the passer. The Chargers have been in one-and-done games essentially for the last month. But they won today not because Phillip Rivers was anything spectacular through the air, but rather because their defense made the Colts one dimensional, they had great special teams play by their punting unit and pinned the Colts in horrible field position, and their running game put on a show even without their top guy.
There's a reason football is referred to as the ultimate team sport. As good as Manning is, and as good as Ryan has been as a rookie, the rest of the pieces have to fall into line for a team to make a serious run at a championship.