Setting the Stage
Falcs are spending the preceding week in the desert. They were 1 - 4 heading into the Houston game. Cards - at 0 - 3 - 1 were looking for their first victory. Cards got what they wanted, beating the Bengals 26 - 23 in an early eastern time-zone contest. Houston racked up 53 points to label the Falcons a 1 - 4 victim and placing all kinds of pressure on HC Dan Quinn.
According to an AP Falcon beat writer: "The Falcons are off to a 1-4 start for the second straight season and showing no signs of improvement. They’ve gotten worse during each week of a three-game losing streak. Quinn’s job security is another issue. He is 19-21 since winning the NFC three years ago and with the final say in personnel matters, he is most responsible for this mess."
Atlanta schedule after Arizona is formidable and could turn the contest in Glendale into a "trap game.
Atlanta Loses to Houston
Falcs kept up with Houston and led by 17 - 16 at halftime. Then Houston blew the lid open in the 3rd quarter, and scored 17 unanswered points to lead 33 - 17 opening the 4th quarter. Houston further widened the score to 53 - 32 to wrap up the game. Without getting lost in the details - no self-respecting NFL team expects its opponent to paste a 53-burger on the final box-score.
Atl TD - Sanu - 14 yd Pass fr Ryan Atlanta 7 - Houston 0
Hou TD - Fuller - 6 yd pass fr Watson Atlanta 7 - Houston 7
First Quarter Score - Atlanta 7 - Houston 7
ATL FG - Bryant 35 yds -Atlanta 10 - Houston 7
Hou TD - Fuller - 33 yd pass fr Watson (XP failed) Atlanta 10 - Houston 13
Hou FG - Fairbairn - 50 yds - Atlanta 10 - Houston 16
Atl TD - Freeman - 9 yd pass fr Ryan - Atlanta 17 - Houston 16
2nd Quarter Score - Atlanta 17- Houston 16
Hou TD - Hyde 1 yd run - Houston 23 - Atlanta 17
Hou FG - Fairbairn 26 yds - Houston 26 - Atlanta 17
Hou TD - Fells - 8 yd pass fr Watson - Houston 33 - Atlanta 17
3rd Quarter Score - Houston 33 - Atlanta 17
Atl TD - Ryan 1 yd run (2P Good) - Houston 33 - Atlanta 25
Hou TD - Fells - 12 yd pass fr Watson - Houston 40 - Atlanta 25
Atl TD - Ridley - 29 yd pass fr Ryan - Houston 40 - Atlanta 32
Hou TD - Fuller 44 yd pass fr Watson - Houston 47 - Atlanta 32
Hou - TD - 79 yd Interception Ret (XP Failed) - Houston 53 - Atlanta 32
Final Score - Houston 53 - Atlanta 32
Atlanta in a Nutshell
They're faced with having to fight their way out of a 1 - 4 record and having to deal with Seattle and the Rams after the contest in Glendale. Their two best players - Ryan and J Jones - are potentially lethal but haven't yet caught fire. (Opposing defenses realize that, if they can neutralize Jones as a scoring threat, they can pretty much shut down the Atlanta offense (including Freeman and the Falcone running attack). Despite all this - the presence of the talented and experienced Ryan makes Atlanta dangerous.
Falcons rank 2nd worst in league with a point differential of minus-50. Question to consider: Are the Cardinals collectively smart enough to exploit Atlanta's weaknesses?
QB ...02 Ryan...08 Schaub
RB....24 Freeman...25 I Smith...38 Barner...23 B Hill...30 Ollison
FB...40 K Smith
WR...11 J Jones...18 Ridley...83 Gage
WR ..12 Sanu...14 Hardy...17 Zaccheaus
TE...81 Hooper...80 Stocker....87 Graham
LT...70 Matthews...75 Wetzel
OC...51 Mack...71 Schweltzer
RG..68 J Brown
RT...76 McGary...74 Sambrello...73 Gono
Defensive Interior Line
LDE - 97 Z Allen...90 Bullard...91 Dogbe
NT - 98 Peters, 92 Kerr
RDE - 95 Gunter, 93 McDonald
SAM - 55 C Jones, 50 Reed
ILB - 43 Reddick, 59 Walker
MLB - 58 Hicks, 42 Gardeck...47 Z Turner
WILL - 56 Suggs, 54 Marsh Sr
RCB - 33 Murphy...27 K Peterson
LCB - 20 Brock...25 C Jones...T Williams
SS - 35 D Thompson...38 Banjo
FS - 32 Baker...38 J Thompson... 28 C Washington... 40 Tillman*
Atlanta Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Ryan leads the NFL in completions and is second in total passing yards. He hooked up with 8 different receivers vs. Houston. Hooper leads the team in receptions with 34 catches for 342 yds. But offense needs to get the ball more often into the hands of Julio Jones. Defenses know that, by doubling Jones or providing safety help, they can bottle up the Falcon passing attack.
Key Matchups - Ryan and J Jones vs. Murphy and Baker or K Peterson. Matthews and Carpenter vs. C Jones and Suggs. Hooper vs, B Baker
Matchup: Atlanta Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Falcs are having trouble running the ball (Freeman ranks #40 in the League) and stopping the run; Freeman is averaging 67.6 YPC.
Key Matchups - Freeman and Atlanta OL vs. Cardinal front seven.
Each week is an adventure with the team still trying to figure out who they are. Kingsbury is adept at tailoring his offense to exploit defensive matchups and weaknesses, but it's hard to know what the Cardinals will dish out from week to week. Three most dangerous offensive weapons: Murray (both on the ground and thru the air), Fitzgerald and David Johnson Cards eased Chase Edmonds into a more active role vs. Cincy. Major objective - cleaning up penalties committed by the OL. Falcons must contend with a Cardinal offense that posted 592 total yards last week.
01 Murray, 07 Hundley
31 D Johnson, 29 Edmonds, 37 Foster
WR - 11 Fitzgerald...89 Isabella,
WR - 19 KS Johnson...14 Byrd
13 Kirk...6 Sherfield...12 Cooper
TE - 85 Clay, 87 M Williams....xx Daniels
LT- ...74 Humphries...66 Miles,
LG - 67 Pugh
OC- 53 Shipley, 52 Cole
RG- 64 Sweezy, 65 Gailliard.
RT - 71 J Murray...78 Toth
DE....98 McKinley...99 Clayborn
DT....97 Jarrettt...95 Crawford
DT...96 Davison...94 Senat
DE...93 Bailey...50 Cominsky
DE ..44 Beasely Jr
LB....59 Campbell...54 Oluokun
LB...45 D Jones...53 Grace
CB....26 Oliver...27 Kazee...20 Sheffield....39 White
CB...21 Trufant...33 Wreh-Wilson...28 J MIller
S......36 Ishmael...35 J Carter
S......37 R Allen...41 Neasman
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Atlanta Pass Defense
Atlanta keeps falling behind and then is forced to throw the ball in order to catch up. Major challenges - their 3rd down defense and getting pressure on the passer. Falc sackmeisters were shut out for past two weeks (a total of 5 for the season. Backup corner Kazee left the Houston game with a head injury.
K Murray and his legs vs. Atlanta LBs and safeties (Ishmael and R Allen)...Fitz vs. Trufant...When matching up Murray's mobility with Atlanta's lack of pass rush, expect Falcs to play a lot of drop zone and dare Murray to throw the ball.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Atlanta Run Defense
Both D Johnson and Chase Edmonds were able to effectively run the ball last week.
Cardinal OL vs. Atl Front Five...D Jones vs. D Johnson
Bosher has been injured, and Falcs brought in Wiley to fill in. He had 2 KO's sail out of bounds vs, Houston.
Lee sat out Sunday's game and was replaced by Winslow. He's expected back. Gonzalez missed 2 make-able FGs.. Kirk was injured and may or may not be out for the rest of the season. Pharoah Cooper has returned to the roster.
Atlanta Special Teams
K 03 Bryant
P ..... 04 Wiley... xx Bosher
H xx Bosher
LS 47 J Harris
KR ..38 Barner
PR 1.38 Barner
Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ....05 Gonzalez
H - ...02 Lee
LS - 46 Brewer
KR - 89 Isabella...12 Cooper
PR - 13 Kirk...xx Byrd....12 Cooper
Matchup Atlanta Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
I like Lee and Gonzalez vs. Bryant and Wiley. Barner can be scary. Card returners are banged up. Cooper is their mainstay, but they use (a healthy) Kirk and have been working Isabella into the lineup. I'd give the edge to our guys.
I'd give the edge to our guys mainly on Atlanta's need to rely on Wiley.
Coaching / Intangibles
HC Dan Quinn...OC Dirk Koetter...Falcons don't carry a "Defensive Coach" or "Special Teams Assistant" preferring instead to rely on more specialized position coaches and assistants.
How to Beat Falcons
Bottle up J Jones...Stop Freeman...Win the mistakes/penallties battles. Leverage Murray's multi-talents as a passer/runner