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Both teams were below .500. Atlanta's 2 & 5 coming off a win. The Cards were 3 & 4 coming off losses to SF and Seattle within a 4-day period followed by a long work week to lick their wounds and prepare for the Falcones.
If the Cardinals could somehow win this contest, they'd enjoy their Bye Week as a pretty good .500 team in a tough division.
Cards Manhandle Falcons 27 - 13..
The Bottom Line:
The Cards once again started slowly (with Carson Palmer throwing his obligatory early interception); but once again the defense bailed out the offense, limiting the Falcons to one field goal each in the first and second quarter. The Cardinal offense finally rediscovered its mojo in the second quarter scoring three touchdowns and pretty much held even in the second half to secure the win. A prideful Cardinal defense was frustrated that they couldn't keep Atlanta out of the end zone late in the 4th quarter due to a couple of questionable calls by the officials. And the "hands team" couldn't come up with an on-side kick after the Atlanta touchdown. But aside from that, there was very little to be unhappy about as Cardinal players prepared to enjoy their week off.
Falcs received (touchback). A 2-yard gain by Jackson set the tone for the entire game and the Card defense held Atlanta to 3 & out. Peterson lost 7-yards on the punt return and the Cards started from their own 18. A false start flag on Sowell contributed to a 3 & out. McClain returned the punt to the Atlanta 38. An 18 yard completion to D Davis helped move Atlanta to the Cardinal 30, but a sack by Benard pushed them out of FG range and forced Atlanta to punt.
Punt was downed at the Cardinal 15. The Cards moved to their own 39 before a 5-yard run by Ellington was wiped out by a holding penalty on Sendlein. On the next play from scrimmage, Palmer rolled right and threw a "strike" into the arms of Samuels (who apparently read Palmer's eyes and jumped the route). Atlanta ball on the Cardinal 31. They managed to get to the Cardinal 6 before settling on a 24-yard Bryant FG. Falcons 3 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. A 19-yard gallop up the middle by Ellington followed by a 51-yard completion to "The Splendid Splinter II" (otherwise known as Teddy Williams) moved Arizona to the Falcon 6 as the quarter ended. 1st Quarter Score: Falcons 3 - Cards 0.
After a 5-yard false start penalty on Sendlein moved the Cards back to the Atlanta 10, Palmer hit Fitz in the end zone to take an improbable Cardinal lead. Cards 7 - Falcons 3.
(Rodgers returned the KO to the Atlanta 21). Ryan then engineered one of his patented long drives (this one taking 15 plays and 7:17 (during which Abraham was flagged for being offsides)) only to having to settle for a Bryant 30-yarder. Cards 7 - Falcons 6.
(TB on the KO). On the first play from scrimmage, Ellington headed up the middle, cut outside to his left and outran everybody for an 80-yard TD. Cards 14 - Falcons 6.
(TB on the KO). Cards held Atlanta to 3 & out. Peterson returned the punt to the Cardinal 22. Palmer connected with Fitz for 20-yards (with a face mask penalty tacked on). A tough 15-yard run by Taylor set up a 15-yard TD pass to Floyd over the middle. Cards 21 - Falcons 6.
Rodgers returned the KO to the Atlanta 21. Falcs were held to 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Cardinal 24 with 0:55 left till halftime. But Palmer was sacked by Peters for minus-9 and went 3 & out. McClain returned the punt 14 yards to the Atlanta 27 with 0:25 til the half. Former Falcon, Abraham's 10-yard sack of Ryan on the final play added a final exclamation-point to the first half. First Half Score: Cards 21 - Falcons 6.
- 3rd Quarter
Cards received. (TB on the KO) Palmer brought the Cards out to their own 45 but took a minus-9 yard sack that ended the Cardinal drive. TB on the punt. Three plays later, D Wash leaped up and intercepted a pass over the middle intended for Coffman and returned it to the Falcon 22. Cards couldn't convert in 3 downs and Feely kicked a 39-yarder. Cards 24 - Falcons 6.
(TB on the KO). A 12-play drive (during which Ryan had to overcome a couple of Falcon penalties) ended at the Cardinal 40 when (after Matty was sacked by Rucker for minus-10 yards), Ryan's pass for D Johnson was intercepted by Rashad Johnson). Cards ball on their own 23. A 17-yard completion to Fitz put the ball on the Cardinal 40 as the quarter ended. Third Quarter Score: Cards 24 - Falcons 6.
Cards were forced to punt 4 plays later. Bethel downed the punt at the Atlanta 1. A pass interference flag on DWash helped Ryan wiggle his way out of the shadown of the goal posts and move to his own 29, but on the 8th play of the Atlanta possession, his pass (under pressure) intended for D Davis was intercepted by Mathieu who returned the ball to the Atlanta 40. (Still 12:00 left on the clock and Ron Wolfley is beginning to annoy me by gloating a bit prematurely).
A 19-yard gallop by Ellington helped move the Cards down to the Falcon 9-yard line, but Taylor lost 4-yards on a sweep-left and Palmer was then sacked by Babineaux. Feely's 38-yard FG attempt was good. A 21-point lead with 8:44 left was looking good but we've seen the Cards blow similar leads (like the 19-points vs. Hostetler in Giant Stadium many moons ago). Cards 27 - Falcons 6.
(TB on the KO). The bad news is that Atlanta scored a TD. The good news is that it took 14-plays and 4:02 (& a couple of questionable calls by the officials - including a neutral zone infraction by Dockett and a pass interferience call on Mathieru - who got legally "mugged" - to do it. TD was the result of a "pick play" where the Honey Badger got scraped off coverage of D Davis in the end zone. Cards 27 - Falcons 13.
4:38 left - plenty of time for Atlanta to grab at least one onside kickoff and score two TD's to tie the score. Sure enough, they recovered the onside kick and were back in business near midfield with 4:37 to go. An 8-yard sack by Calais Campbell helped keep the clock moving, but the clincher was when Ryan (under pressure) threw a deep pass intended for Douglas into the arms of Rashad Johnson (#26's second pick of the day). 2:58 left - we're not relaxing just yet. The 9-play possession included 9 running plays by Stepfan Taylor, but the biggie was a 14-yard completion to Housler. When the dust had settled and Zastudil's punt out of bounds gave Atlanta the ball, there were :20-seconds left to play and Atlanta had pretty much run out of time and answerss. Final Score:Cards 27 - Falcons 13.
We held Steven Jackson to 6 yards on 11 carries.
Ellington gained 154 yards on 15 carries. (His impressive numbers weren't only due to his 80-yarder; take away that long TD run and he still gained 74 yards on 14 carries (more than 5 yards a carry)..
Longest Atlanta running play was a 13-yard scramble by Ryan. Take that away and the Cards held Atlanta to 14 yards on 11 carries.
Overall, the Cards gained 201 on the ground on 30 carries (including a 9-yard scramble by Palmer).
Palmer completed 13 of 18 passing attempts for 172 yards, 2 TD's and that one 1Q interception.
Matty Ice threw a record total of 61 passes, completing 34 for 301 yards and a TD. He threw 4 interceptions (up till now, he had only thrown 3 picks all year).
Fitz led all Cardinal receivers with 4 grabs. Longest yardage on a single play goes to Teddy Williams with 51.
Dansby led the team in tackles with 9, followed by Mathieu (7), DWash (6) and Campbell (5) and Powers (5).
Rashad (9-Fingers) Johnson was credited with 2 interceptions. Mathieu and DWash had one apiece.
Our 3rd Down Efficiency could have been better (33%) (Atlanta's was 40% - an improvement by our defense).
We were penalized 10 times (Atlanta was penalized 8).
So much for Time of Possession: We lost that battle 25:41 to 34:19
We converted 2 of 3 Red Zone possessions.
After the first and only Palmer interception, our offense seemed to rediscover its mojo. We moved the ball - both on the ground and thru the air, we protected the ball (the one interception, no lost fumbles) and scored three TD's.
Ellington was everything fans, coaches and players hoped he'd be. Not only did he hit a home run, but he also provided additional yardage both in 15 - 20 yard chunks and 3 - 5 yard bits and pieces on first downs. We all had the opportunity to witness the positive impact a dominant running attack can have on the rest of the offense (& for that matter, a defense that finally got to play with a lead).
Our run defense was physical, smart and solid. Every tackle seemed to be made with an extra dose of whoopass. Seldom did screens or passes in the flat result in a lot of Atlanta RAC yardage.
The O-Line allowed 3 sacks, but on other plays gave Palmer just enough time to deliver the ball where it had to be delivered.
The Front Seven - both as a group and individually - played near-perfect defensive football. Shout-outs to Campbell, Dockett, Schaughnessy, Abraham, Dansby, DWash and let's not forget Rucker. Or for that matter. Benard (who had that one early sack before getting injured).
We agree with John Lynch - who said that Palmer immediately looked better when "he did less thinking and acted more on his instincts.
Rookie standouts - Ellington and Mathieu. One Play Wonder - Teddy Williams (who got that one chance to shine and made the most of it).
The Dark Side
(Well not really that dark). Most of Palmer's sacks came against our center and guards from interior guys (like Babineaux and Peters) and not off the edge.
We hope the Honey Badger will spend part of his Bye Week learning how to deal with pick-plays.
The "hands team" - Taylor allowed himself to get pushed off the ball by a kicker of all all people.
Not that they did badly, but the entire team needs to learn how to play with (& protect) late leads - they cannot afford to take their feet off the pedal in the 4Q , because opposing offenses are becoming too adept to "make leads disappear" by scoring quickly and often.
To paraphrase Bill Parcells - "we are who we are - a .500 team midway through the football season." We're in a tough division but have proved (both to others and to ourselves) we're a pretty good football team. Our schedule outside the division isn't all that tough. If we can find a way to win the games we should win and "steal" a couple of others, we'll be in the playoff hunt. Or - to look at it another parallel way - if we win the rest of our home games and "steal" a couple of others, we'll be 9 & 7 with a shot to sneak into the playoffs. The impressive win over Atlanta demonstrated that we can compete with anybody. The challenge looking forward will be to consistently play to that high standard for the rest of the season.