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Jon DeNunzio
Sports Editor

Jon DeNunzio

A Sports Editor and lead blogger for Playback.

Ryan Tops the List

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What happened yesterday in the NFL?

Or should I ask, "what didn't?"

A selection of stunners from Week 6:

- The Rams won their first game -- on the road against a team that looked like one of the league's best through five weeks.

- The Texans were good in the closing moments -- for a change -- and rallied for their first win.

- The Vikings needed a questionable pass interference call and a late field goal to beat the Lions -- in Minnesota.

- The Cowboys lost to the Cardinals in a game that started with a kickoff return TD and ended with a blocked punt TD.

- Forty-three-year old Warrick Dunn ran for 115 yards.

- Someone named Patrick Cobbs had 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns for the Dolphins.

But if we're ranking the surprises from Sunday's games, I'd rank Matt Ryan number one.

Yes, the Falcons rookie quarterback had already shown signs of being pretty good -- see Emilio Garcia-Ruiz's Redraft blog post from last week.

But consider this: Ryan was handed the ball on the Falcons 44 yard line with six seconds left and his team down one point. He quickly found Michael Jenkins for a 26-yard completion at the sideline, allowing Jason Elam enough time to line up for a 48-yard field goal. Final score: Falcons 22, Beas 20.

That single play is impressive enough for a guy making his sixth NFL start -- for a team that went 4-12 last year.

But it gave him this stat line for the game: 22 of 30 passing for 301 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. He completed his first eight passes for 107 yards and finished with a passer rating of 116.1.

Ryan did it while the running game stalled -- the Michael Turner-led ground game had 30 carries for 75 yards (2.5 yards per carry).

Did I mention he was playing the Bears defense -- a unit that was already good, and was bolstered by the return of tackle Tommie Harris?

A friend asked yesterday, "When was the last time a quarterback has been so good as a rookie?" Well, Ben Roethlisberger was amazing as a rookie in 2004 -- leading the Steelers to a 15-1 regular season -- but after that, we agreed that Ryan might be the best in recent years.

So today I looked it up. Using the Football Outsiders' signature stat, DVOA, here are the rankings of quarterbacks who have played eight games or more as a rookie since 2004 (note: DVOA is 'Defense-adjusted Value Over Average -- it compares a quarterback's performance on every play against the performance of every other NFL QB):

1. Ben Roethlisberger (PIT, 2004) -- 14 games, DVOA: 40.3
2. Matt Leinart (ARZ, 2006) -- 12 games, DVOA: 4
3. Matt Ryan (ATL, 2008) -- 5 games, DVOA: 1.7
4. Vince Young (TEN, 2006) -- 15 games, DVOA: -6.9
5. Trent Edwards (BUF, 2007) -- 10 games, DVOA: -7.8
6. Eli Manning (NYG, 2004) -- 9 games, DVOA: -28.4
7. Bruce Gradowski (TB, 2006) -- 14 games, DVOA: -32.9
8. Kyle Orton (CHI, 2005) -- 15 games, DVOA: -36
9. Alex Smith (SF, 2005) -- 9 games, DVOA: -97.8

Ryan's DVOA does not include Sunday's game, which is bound to bump it up, possibly over Leinart. So he's undeniably a very good rookie.

The question now is this: Will you be surprised if Ryan stays at this level the rest of the year?

By Jon DeNunzio  |  October 13, 2008; 1:25 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I didn't realize just how good Big Ben's season rookie season was.

Posted by: Sandmeistr | October 13, 2008 5:13 PM

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