HOUSTON — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wasn’t on hand to accept the biggest individual honor of his NFL career, but he has a more important goal in mind that required his attention.
The night before Ryan was to play in his first Super Bowl, the Falcons 31-year-old passer won his first Most Valuable Player award Saturday night at NFL Honors.
A panel of voters commissioned by the Associated Press made Ryan a decisive winner of the league’s most prestigious individual award. Ryan received 25 votes, beating out Tom Brady, his opponent in Super Bowl LI Sunday at NRG Stadium. Brady finished with 10 votes.
Ryan finished the 2016 season with 4,944 yards, 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He has led the Falcons to their second Super Bowl appearance with wins over the Seahawks and Packers, throwing a combined six interceptions and no touchdowns. Ryan also received the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award.
Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack won his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, edging out Broncos linebacker Von Miller by just one vote. Mack had a red-hot stretch from the middle of October through the middle of December, producing 10 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception return for touchdown.
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who suffered a torn ACL in the 2015 preseason and missed the entire year, won Comeback Player of the Year honors. Nelson had 97 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott edged out Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Prescott, who replaced the injured Tony Romo in the preseason, played all 16 games and had 23 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who played just 12 games because of a preseason hamstring injury, won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Bosa had 10 ½ sacks despite missing four games.
Jason Garrett of the Cowboys won Coach of the Year honors, beating out New England’s Bill Belichick by leading Dallas to a 13-3 record and the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs. The Cowboys lost a second-round playoff game to the Packers.