Matt Ryan did not win back-to-back MVP awards, but he did something no other quarterback was able to do in 2017 — take every snap for his team during the regular season.
The 2016 NFL MVP played all 1,024 of the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive snaps.
A total of 32 NFL players played every snap on their sides of the ball, but Ryan was one of only four non-offensive linemen to do it. The other three all were defensive players: Cleveland Browns linebackers Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert, plus New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis.
It’s not unusual for dozens of offensive linemen to do it, but Ryan was the only quarterback to accomplish the feat last season. In 2016, four quarterbacks did so: Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford.
Cousins was on the field for all but four plays in 2017, while Brees missed just five and Stafford nine. Manning was benched late in the season and played in 1,017 of the Giants’ 1,083 offensive plays.
Four defensive players played every snap in 2016: Alec Ogletree, Reggie Nelson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Glover Quin.
Clinton-Dix came closest to repeating, playing all but eight of the Packers’ defensive snaps in 2017.
Snap streaks were a big story in 2017 because of how one ended. Browns tackle Joe Thomas’ consecutive plays streak ended at 10,363 because of an early-season triceps injury. Thomas had played every snap since the start of the 2007 season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, no one in the NFL has played more total snaps the past five years than Brees, who has been on the field for 5,287 offensive plays dating to the start of the 2013 season. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers ranked second with 5,117.
Ryan ranks eighth on the list with 5,036 plays in the past five seasons.
The highest non-quarterback is Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz with 5,100.
The highest non-quarterback/non-lineman is Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins with 5,053.
On defense, Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr has played the most snaps over the past five years with 4,964.
Here’s a look at the four iron men from this past season who didn’t play on the offensive line:
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Snaps: 1,024 of 1,024
In his MVP season of 2016, Ryan threw for almost 5,000 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He managed barely more than 4,000 yards in 2017, and his touchdown total dropped to 20 while his interceptions jumped to 12. Still, he led the Falcons back to the playoffs and played in every game for the eighth straight season. In his career, he has played in 158 of a possible 160 regular-season games.
Christian Kirskey, LB, Cleveland Browns
Snaps: 1,068 of 1,068
The third-round pick in 2014 has played in every game in all four of his NFL seasons. He posted his second straight 100-plus tackle season with 138 in 2017. He missed only two plays in 2016, meaning he has been on the field for 2,179 of a possible 2,181 defensive snaps the past two seasons.
Joe Schobert, LB, Cleveland Browns
Snaps: 1,068 of 1,068
The former walk-on at the University of Wisconsin tied for the NFL lead in tackles in 2017, his first season as a full-time starter. His 144 tackles were an increase of 116 from his rookie season of 2016, when he played on just 22.1 percent of the Browns’ defensive plays.
Demario Davis, LB, New York Jets
Snaps: 1,115 of 1,115
Davis returned to the Jets in the Calvin Pryor trade after playing one season for the Browns. Originally a third-round pick of the Jets in 2012, he has never missed a game in his NFL career. He posted career highs in sacks (5.0) and tackles (135) a year after playing in just over 70 percent of the Browns’ defensive snaps.
Offensive linemen who played every snap in 2017:
A.Q. Shipley, Cardinals: 1,121 snaps
Jake Matthews, Falcons: 1,024
James Hurst, Ravens: 1,085
Ryan Jensen, Ravens: 1,085
Eric Wood, Bills: 1,052
Andrew Norwell, Panthers: 1,066
Daryl Williams, Panthers: 1,066
Charles Leno, Bears: 988
Russell Bodine, Bengals: 962
Clint Boling, Bengals: 962
Joel Bitonio, Browns: 1,068
JC Tretter, Browns: 1,068
Kevin Zeitler, Browns: 1,068
La’el Collins, Cowboys: 1,065
Travis Frederick, Cowboys: 1,065
Matt Paradis, Broncos: 1,127
Graham Glasgow, Lions: 1,041
Corey Linsley, Packers: 1,047
Breno Giacomini, Texans: 1,095
Anthony Castonzo, Colts: 1,030
Jeremy Vujnovich, Colts: 1,030
Mitchell Schwartz, Chiefs: 1,027
Ryan Ramczyk, Saints: 1,037
Max Unger, Saints: 1,037
James Carpenter, Jets: 1,035
Rodney Hudson, Raiders: 1,008
Germain Ifedi, Seahawks: 1,067
Ben Jones, Titans: 1,022