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
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
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
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 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,
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
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
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.”