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Falcons Double Cardinals

 By Don Stone - Football Atlanta

  The Arizona Cardinals, to say the least, have been a disappointment so far. Many expected them to challenge for a Super Bowl spot after a great 13-3 season in 2015.
  A 4-5-1 first half has a lot of fans scratching their heads. They started the season at 1-3 and have been unable to right the ship. "Six games left in the regular season at this point and we have no room for error moving forward. None," Larry Fitzgerald told USA Today.
  Carson Palmer looked like he was finally reaching the potential that everyone had given him throughout his career. But, he's made his share of the team's mistakes, throwing five of his 10 interceptions in the last three games.
  Last week in a 30-24 loss at Minnesota, he had a season-low 198 passing yards. To be realistic, their five losses have mostly come against good teams in the Patriots, Bills, Panthers and Vikings with the fifth against the struggling Rams. They managed a tie at home against Seattle.
  The Falcons are trying not to repeat last year's poor second half. After a 5-0 start, they went 3-8 the rest of the season. This year, they were off to a 4-1 start, then began to stumble a bit, losing a pair to Seattle and San Diego before back to back wins against the Packers and Bucs. Their worst looking performance of the season came in their last game at Philadelphia.
  But, they should be rested having played just that one game in the last twenty three days. They get Tevin Coleman back after missing three games but have lost Desmond Trufant and Jacob Tamme for the season. One of the best kickers in the NFL, Matt Bosher, is out for at least this game with  filling in. Matt WileThe addition of Coleman will give Matt Ryan a chance to spread the ball around more than just targeting Julio Jones. Ryan has 3,247 passing yards, second in the NFL with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. A huge improvement from 2015.
  Along with the long rest, it has been a full month since Atlanta played at home. But, the flip side of that is that they will finish with four of their remaining six games at the Georgia Dome.
  During the bye week, Carolina and Tampa Bay both won. Still in first place at 6-4 but just a game ahead of the surging Bucs (5-5) and two ahead of the Panthers (4-6). Carolina visits a tough Raiders team today while Tampa Bay takes on Seattle and New Orleans (4-6) has the Rams.
  Arizona got the ball first and immediately hit Jermaine Gresham on the left side for 15 at the 40. He then hit John Brown on the right side for 19 into Falcons territory at the 41. Next, a run by David Johnson up the middle for six. Then, a diving catch by Fitzgerald for 17 more to the 16. Johnson caught one at the one for a first and goal. Gresham was open in the back of the end zone to finish an impressive opening drive that went 75 yards and 9 plays in 6:21. Cardinals lead 7-0.
  Eric Weems got his team decent field position taking the kick 23 yards out to the 28. Jones got six on the first play followed by a 16 yard run up the middle to midfield by Devonta Freeman. Mohamed Sanu added six. Dan Quinn decided to go for it on a fourth and 3 at the AC43 with Sanu making a nice catch for 7 for a new set of downs at the 36. Ryan found Justin Hardy for a 27 yard catch and a first and goal at the nine. Coleman fell down with nothing but space in front of him for what would have been an easy score. Sanu picked up five then got more life as Patrick Peterson drew a pass interference call defending Jones at the one. On the next play, Freeman burst across the goal line to tie the game at 7.
  The Cardinals began their second drive again at their 25. Back where they left off as Johnson picked up 14 to the 39 then added 18 more on a catch up the middle by Fitzgerald. Johnson carried it for five to the AF38. They converted a third and three with a pass to Johnson for 14 to the 22. Johnson again getting 16 for another first and goal at the six as the first quarter ended.
  A bad snap cost the Cards 13 yards for a third and goal at the 17. They couldn’t overcome the mistake and settled for a Chandler Catanzaro 25 yard field goal. Arizona had the lead back 10-7.
  Atlanta’s offense needed to make the most of their time on the field with just one drive in the whole first quarter. They began their second drive at their 25 and got off to a good start a 27 yard rush by Taylor Gabriel. Ryan saw open space and kept it for six to the AC42. A pass to Hardy got it to the 33. After Freeman dropped a pass, Ryan, facing a third and 14, drew another pass interference call of Peterson. First down at the 34. A short pass to Sanu got seven but they had to settle for a 45 yard Matt Bryant field goal to tie it at 10.
   Arizona quickly got to midfield with a 25 yard catch by Johnson but had 10 of it come back on a holding call for a second and 20 at their 40. Too much to get back and they had to punt for the first time.
   Another first as the Falcons starting at their 16 went three and out. A nice 57 yard Wile punt kept the Cardinals from getting good field position with it downed at the 29. John Brown fumbled but was ruled down by contact.
   A holding call nullified a 17 yard catch by Brownfor a second and 20 at the 18. A fierce pass rush by Vic Beasley drew an intentional grounding call against Palmer for a third and 29 at the 10. Kicking out of his end zone, former Georgia Bulldog Drew Butler could only get it out to the AC45.
   With just over two minutes remaining in the half, Ryan went to work with a quick pass to Jones for ten. Quinn took his first time out at 2:28. A quick screen pass to Gabriel and the speedy back was 35 yards into the end zone in a few seconds. Atlanta had its first lead 17-10. The short field score took just 0:51.
   Palmer still had plenty of time with 2:19 and all three time outs starting at their 25.
   Johnson picked up a quick 8 yards as the two minute warning kicked in. On a third and two, Quinn took his second time out stopping the clock at 1:56. They failed to convert and the Falcons offense would have another shot at adding to their lead getting the ball at their 30 with 1:44.
   Ryan picked up a first down with a catch by Austin Hooper. Then another on an 11 yarder to Hardy at the 35. What would have been at least a field goal was stopped when D.J Swearinger picked Ryan off at the 37. Twenty five seconds left when Palmer hit at the AF46 needing about ten yards to get within Catanzaro’s range. He got it with the 54 yard field goal making it 17-13. Stats were pretty even with Atlanta leading slightly with 23 total yards to Arizona’s 198. The difference was five penalties for 36 yards by the Cardinals (two of them costly by Peterson) and none for the Falcons. The one interception resulted in three points for the visitors.
Atlanta started with a four yard Coleman run to the 29. A toss to Coleman picked up the first at the 36. But Tony Jefferson went in untouched for an 8 yard sack. A holding call gave the Falcons a first down at the 32. But another sack, this time by Tyrann Mathieu pushed them back 11. A short toss to Freeman made it third and 16 from the 26. The third sack of the drive with Markus Golden getting his turn forced a punt by Wile for 59 yards to the AF27.
The Cards went three and out and got the ball back at their 23.
Things got moving quickly as Jones caught one for 15 to the 42 followed by an 18 yard catch by TE Levine Toilolo at the AC40. Sanu got six for a third and two at the 32. Hooper got the first with a five yard catch at the 27. Swearinger almost got another pick but couldn’t hold on bringing up a third and 10. With no one open, Ryan scrambled for 11 and a first down at the 16. Freeman weaved his way forward for 8 then got enough for a first and goal at the four. A handoff to Coleman got the points putting the Falcons up by 11, 24-13.
  Arizona got the ball at their 25. A pass to Johnson got 11 followed by a holding call on Robert Alford. A third down catch by Michael Floyd gained 12 at the Atl43. Adrien Clayborn came out of the game with a knee injury. John Brown injured his hamstring and was out for the game.
 Then Brooks Reed and Cecil Upshaw got through and sacked Palmer at midfield for a loss of 7. Head Coach Bruce Arians, who many thought would not make the trip after a brief trip to the hospital, decided to go for it on fourth and 7 down by two scores. The attempt failed and Atlanta took over on downs at their 40.
   got a quick 12 on a pass to Sanu. At midfield third and 12, but they could only get to the AC43. Then a gift as the line jumped off sides for another costly penalty. First down at the 38. Coleman turned on the burners and got into the red zone but had it called back on a holding call on Ryan Shraeder. Second and four from the 32. On a third and five from the 33, Ryan hit Sanu for seven at the 26. Another short screen pass to Gabriel and he mirrored his TD from earlier with a speedy sprint to the end zone. Atlanta up 31-13 with 8:48 to go.
   Down by 18, Arizona had the ball at their 25. Palmer hit J.J. Nelson for his first catch and 13 yards at the 38. The Falcons’ second sack came at the hands of Brian Poole for an 8 yard loss and a third and 18 at the 30. But, Palmer got all he needed with a pass to Johnson, who broke free to the AF49. Floyd caught one up the middle for 19 to the 30. A holding call on Jalen Collins gave them another first at the 25. A completion to Gresham moved it to the 14. Fitzgerald made an 8 yard catch with a personal foul called o Keanu Neal moving it half the distance to the goal at the three. A short pass to Johnson got them in the end zone. But, down by 12, then went for two and had the pass knocked down. Score 31-19 with 4:44 remaining in the game.
   The Cardinals tried an onside kick but had it recovered by Austin Hooper at the AC46.
   Quinn’s objected here was to eat up clock and yardage. Helping the cause was a facemask foul called on Swearinger moving it up to the 29. Sanu pulled one in for 8 as Arians took his second time out stopping the clock at 3:47. Sanu was open again up the middle for 12 to the 12. Freeman got seven tough yards to the five. The back bounced off the pack in the middle and chose another path flying to the left corner of the end zone. Atlanta had doubled Arizona at 38-19.
   Arians was forced to go for it on fourth down again needing seven at the 28. This time, he succeeded with a pass for nine to Johnson. But on the next play, rookie De’Vondre Campbell got the team’s first interception at the 36. The Falcons only had to take a knee twice and it was all over.
   After the game, Quinn said he was happy at the way his team finished. “For us to score 21-6 in the second half, that’s the script our team needed.”
   He talked about the impact Gabriel had with his two scores. “We were really pleased to see the way Gabe stepped up today. We felt his presence and you could certainly feel his speed.”

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