FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a new nickname.

"I have to tell him congrats and that his new name is ROY," veteran Falcons defensive end John Abraham said.

That's ROY as in Rookie of the Year.

Ryan, who helped guide the Falcons to an improbable second-place finish in the NFC South and a playoff berth, was named the NFL's offensive rookie of the year yesterday.

"It's pretty exciting," said Ryan, a graduate of Philadelphia's Penn Charter. "It's a great honor, and to tell you the truth, I'm pretty humbled by it."

Ryan was a hit right from the beginning of the season. He became the first Falcons rookie quarterback to start a season opener since Steve Bartkowski in 1975.

"I'm very proud of Matt's accomplishments, accelerated maturity and very evident leadership skills while at the helm in his first year as a professional quarterback," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said.

Ryan's first pass as a Falcon went for a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins in the opener against Detroit.

"The season seems like a blur," Ryan said. "It seems like it went by so fast, but I've just really tried to take it in stride and not get caught up in the things that have happened this year.

"I've just tried to stay focused week in and week out. I think that's helped in a lot of areas this year."

After the opening pass, Ryan didn't slow down as he played well beyond his years on most Sundays.

In just his sixth start, Ryan rallied the Falcons to a victory over Chicago in the final 11 seconds.

"I'm happy for him," quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave said. "He's worked really hard, and it's a reflection on our entire team, really. We've had a really great year. I think quarterbacks know that we are dependent on our teammates, and Matt appreciates that fact."

Ryan remained steady throughout the season while completing 265 of 434 passes for 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Ryan gives credit to his receivers and pass protection for the gaudy numbers.

"It helps in terms of my development to have receivers with the capability of Roddy [White] and Mike Jenkins," Ryan said. "We've got a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball and a lot of guys who can make plays."

Ryan won the starting job in the preseason. He earned the respect of the veterans on the team early with his leadership and ability to digest the Falcons' playbook.

The coaches didn't spoon-feed Ryan the attack and had him calling his own plays and working out of no-huddle attack from the second game of the season.

"He has the demeanor of all the great quarterbacks," veteran tackle Todd Weiner said. "I've played with a few, and I've also had friends that have played with a few. He just has that leadership quality that a quarterback needs."

Weiner was an early Ryan supporter.

"From the day he got here," Weiner said. "The way he carries himself. The way he handles himself in the huddle. The way he studies in the film room, yeah. We all thought he'd do a good job."

Ryan, who was selected third overall from Boston College in the 2008 draft, won the award over Tennessee running back Chris Johnson in voting by a nationwide panel of 50 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league.