Matt Ryan earns franchise's first MVP award

A day before playing in his first Super Bowl, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who had a spectacular campaign in his ninth season in the league, was named the NFL’s most valuable player Saturday at Wortham Theater Center.

“This is an incredible honor for me,” Ryan said in a prerecorded message. “Obviously, there are so many other great candidates and players who had amazing seasons. I want to thank all of (my) teammates, obviously without them none of this is possible.”

With Ryan leading the way, the Falcons went 11-5, won the NFC South and earned the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.

“Matt has been unbelievable this year,” Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He started out strong and he’s only gotten better and that’s what has been more impressive to me. He’s done it from Week 1 to Week 16. He’s done it in the playoffs.”

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Ryan, who is set to guide the Falcons in Super Bowl LI against New England on Sunday, did not attend the NFL Honors program.

“We’ve had so many guys on our team make great plays and have great seasons for us, so thank you to those guys,” Ryan said in his statement. “Big thank you to my wife for the support that she gives me throughout the entire year.

“Obviously I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without her, so thank you Sarah for all of that and to my family, thank you for the continued support throughout the year, so appreciate it, thank you, and I hope everybody has a great night.”

Ryan was earlier named the most valuable player by the Professional Football Writers of America.

Ryan, with his pinpoint passing, led the top-scoring offense in the NFL with franchise records in passing yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38).

“If you are looking at consistency this year, you can talk about Matt Ryan,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. “A lot of that is coming out of last year. I would say that it’s due to his offseason work that he put in himself, personally. I think he and Kyle Shanahan have been on a much better communication path than they were in their first year. Matt’s understanding of the system is certainly greater than it was in year one.”

Ryan, in his ninth NFL season, was is the first Atlanta Falcons player to earn the PFWA honor and would be the first to win The Associated Press award.

Ryan started all 16 games in 2016, and completed 534 of 373 passes (69.9 completion percentage; third in the NFL), only seven interceptions and a 117.1 passer rating as the Falcons won the NFC South and gained the NFC’s No. 2 seed with a 11-5 record behind a club-record 540 points scored.

Ryan set franchise records in passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating. Ryan’s 117.1 rating was the fifth-highest in a season in NFL history.

He had a passer rating of 100 or better in 12 games, tying Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former 49ers quarterback Steve Young for the most 100-plus rating games in a single season in NFL history. He led the NFL with 9.3 yards per pass attempt, the highest mark since the St. Louis Rams’ Kurt Warner in 200 and the best for any quarterback attempting 500 or more passes, and he also led the league with 13.3 yards per completion.

Ryan set an NFL record by completing touchdown passes to 13 different receivers, 15 receivers caught at least one pass from him and he had 12 multi-TD pass games.

He was selected as the NFC player of the month for September, NFC offensive player of the week twice (Weeks 9 and 17) and was selected to the PFWA’s 2016 All-NFL and All-NFC teams.

Ryan worked on improving his play after a shaky 2014 season. With a better understanding of the offensive attack, Ryan played at an extremely high level from the outset of the season.

“When you start out hot like that, it’s hard to keep it (going),” Shanahan said. “Not only has Matt kept it (going), he’s played his best ball near the end. The toughness that he’s had, the way he’s been a leader and the consistency that he’s had, the numbers match up with how good of a year he’s had. You can watch the tape too. It’s just been fun to be around him.”

After the fine regular season, Ryan guided the Falcons to victories of Seattle and Green Bay in the playoffs.

“Matt is an unbelievable talent, first of all,” Shanahan said. “He went third in the draft for a reason. He’s one of those pure throwers and he’s very good at it. Matt is very tough. He’s durable. He hangs in there and takes a hit.”

Ryan, 31, appears to be hitting his stride in the prime of his career.

“Just his makeup,” Shanahan said. “When Matt faces adversity, he gets better. He’s not going to sit and point fingers. He’s going to figure out how to work his way out of it. I think you’ve seen that throughout his career. I think you saw it last year. Matt gets better the more he works and he works as hard as anyone that I’ve been around.”