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CARDS OUTMUSCLED BY FALCONS 41 - 7

The Setup
The Cards were coming off a tight but expected win over the Rams. The Falcones were reeling from a gut-wrenching OT loss to the Steelers. This put the Cardinal - Atlanta game in the "must win" category for the Falcons and "win and we're sitting pretty" category for the Cards.

Meanwhile, if anyone thought the Cardinal win last Sunday earned them a degree of respect from the national media, forget it. They entered pre-game week 7-point underdogs, with only Adam Schefter preventing a pro-Falcon consensus by ESPN's geniuses and Hank Gola representing the lone pro-Cardinal holdout among NY Daily News writers & their friends.

The Cards flew into Atlanta with a potentially-lethal but out-of-synch passing attack, a suspect offensive line and an aggressive, "take no prisoners" defense that (if it continues to perform at the high level of the Ram game) could, in my opinion, be the talk of the League by midyear.

On the injury front, for the Cardinals, Early Doucet was Out. Beanie, Iwebema and Abdullah were Questionabll. Fitz and Jason Wright were probable. For the Falcones - WR Michael Jenkins was listed as Out. S Erik Coleman was listed as Questionable. Listed as Probable were OL's Clabo & Hawley along with three CB's, Robinson, Owens and Williams.

The Bottom Line:
The Falcon's came our with a Tom Coughlin smashmouth-type game-plan featuring their big backs; starting with Big Back #1 (Michael Turner) and then (when Turner was injured early in the game) heavy doses of Big Back #2 (Jason Snelling) and Big Back #3 (Olive Mughelli) - daring us to stop them. Guess what? We couldn't stop them. (Chalk it up to being out-physicalled, outgutted and unwilling to attack the runner below the waist.

We also sputtered on the other side of the ball - not as miserably as the defense, but only a notch improved and penalty-plagued on offense.

Not that it mattered, but the officiating was every bit as atrocious as the way we played. We were hit with bogus calls while  more than a couple of blatant Atlanta transgressions were ignored altogether.

Equally depressing was the hangdog way the team performed during the final quarter of the game. Anderson looked helpless and hopeless, and the defense appeared be close to quitting altogether. No fire; just a collective wish to be back on the plane heading west.

If any of us were wondering how bad the Cardinals could look, given our current personnel, hopefully we've seen the worst of it. That's the good news. What remains a given til proved otherwise is that this team will be lucky to win more than 4 games if it doesn't immediately clean up its act.

Game Recap
From my notes - NFL.com's site is overloaded. (Down, distance and yard line numbers may therefore be a little off).

1st Quarter

  • On the opening drive of the game, the Falcons used 9 plays (5 on the ground and a Cardinal penalty) to score first on a pass to White. Falcons 7 - Cardinals 0.

  • But on the ensuing kickoff, LaRod Stephens-Howling went coast to coast - which should have made it 7 - 7, except for...a holding penalty (on Dockett who wasn't even on the field). Two additional Cardinal penalties (Spach and Breaston) derailed their first possession, and they had to punt. Atlanta was forced to punt on the 5th play of their next possession. The Cards got the ball back on their own 20, but on the 5th play of the series, Anderson was picked off (one of his patented deflected high passes over the middle). The interception wiped out a penalty on Levi. Atlanta's possession - marked by an offside penalty on Robinson - carried over into the 2Q.

2nd Quarter

  • They got inside the ten (with the help of a face-mask penalty on a sack by Robinson (culprit unnamed, but it might have been Robinson himself, though the violation looked pretty Mickey Mouse to us) but we forced them to kick a FG. Falcons 10 - Cardinals 0.

  • The ensuing KO went for a TD, and on the very next play, Tim Hightower circled right end for an 80-yard TD gallop. We're back in it. Falcons 10 - Cardinals 7.

  • But not for long. On the next series of down, what looked to me to be a bogus interference call on DRC sustained Atlanta's drive and they scored on an 19-yard outlet pass to Snelling vs. a Cardinal jailbreak blitz. Falcons 17 - Cardinals 7.

  • An Anderson sack (Keith whiffed on a blockof Weatherspoon) forced us to punt from midfield. A roughness call on Toler followed by an interference call (DRC) on an uncatchable ball (thrown far out of bounds) helped set up another Snelling TD run. (Just want to point out that a Dockett offsides violation was wiped out by the roughness call on Toler). Falcons 24 - Cardinals 7.

  • With 3:31 left til halftime, the Cards moved from their own 25 to the Falcon 36, where their drive stalled and Feely proceeded to miss a 54 yd. FG attempt.On the first play of the Atlanta series, we got the ball back on our own 46 when Porter stripped the ball from a scrambling Ryan and Toler came up with the ball; but another sack of Anderson contributed to "nothing accomplished." Halftime Score: Falcons 24 - Cardinals 7.

3rd Quarter

  • We received the 2H kickoff, and on the second play, Anderson had another high, deflected throw intercepted. Atlanta returned it to the Cardinal 14, and a 12-yard TD pass from Mattie Ice to Finneran (who put his body between the ball and Greg Toler who had him covered deep) made it: Falcons 31 - Cardinals 7.

  • Cards couldn't get past their own 45 on the next possession and punted. Starting from their own 12, the Falcons milked6:33 off the clock taking 16 plays before stalling at the Cardinal 18 and kicking another FG. Falcons 34 - Cardinals 7.

  • After the Cards picked up a 1st down on a THT run, they ran off three more plays and then had to punt again. Atlanta's next possession extended into the  next quarter.

4th Quarter

  • A couple of Atlanta holding penalties (evener-outers?) forced them to punt. (At this point, I'm thinking, "We're out of it - put Hall in and give him some game experience - couldn't hurt"). We left Anderso in there (to absorb even more punishment) - we started on our 20, moved to our own 48 and then punted. Atlanta ran 11 straight running plays (featuring Snelling and their FB, Mughelli), the last one a 7-yard TD run (aided by what seemed to me to be 2 overlooked holding violations). Falcons 41 - Cardinals 7.

  • With 3:01 left, Max Hall was allowed to enter the game and show us what he'd got - which wasn't much: he underthew his receiver on the second play from scrimmage and got picked off. Atlanta then took4 knees to end the game.  Final Score: Falcons 41 - Cardinals 7.

Bright Spots

  • Heh, heh, heh! That's a good one (but there were some).

  • Hightower's 80-yard TD run (untouched around RE)

  •  Fitz looked a little more like his All Pro self was the one bright spot I can think of).

  • The LSH kickoff return (even though negated by the penalty).

  • Tackling leaders were Lenon (11) DWash (10), Toler (7) because he was picked on repeatedly and a whole bunch of guys with 4 - 5 tackles.

  • Haggans had the Cardinals' only sack.

  • Tons of teaching tape.

The Dark Side
(I'll get more specific tomorrow).

  • Way too many penalties. Cards were penalized 8 times for 84 yards in the first half alone. (That'll dig you a holedtoo deep to get out of every time). We wound up being flagged 10 times for 109 yards.

  • 0 for 8 on 3rd downs.

  • Inability to match up physically; and, specifically stop the run (Cards gave up 221 ground yards).

  • Anderson (aka "The Human Punching Bag") looked only marginally better than , his first game and continued to sail passes over the middle that wound up as picks off deflections. He wound up with a QB Rating of 42.5.

  • If Max Hall's brief appearance (how about a QB rating of 16.7?) is any indicator, the Cards do not have anyone on the roster qualified (at least right now) to be our #2 backup QB.

  • How about this red zone efficiency: 0 for 0 and 0%.

  • And time of possession: 20:47 vs. 39:13.

  • The team couldn't get up once it was knocked down - and seemed to lack effort, enthusiasm and resiliancy late in the game (the mark of a perennial loser).

  • Far too much post-game talk. (The time for talking is over).

Last Word:
We were outmuscled and outcoached (For example, by keeping Watson on the de-activated list, we left ourselves open to being out-physicalled by Atlanta's big back attack. Some teams (most notably New England, New Orleans and Indy) tend to perform on the field the way they look physically "on paper." The Cardinals are less reliable - given their level of talent on paper, they could just as easily wind up 6 & 10 as they could 10 & 6. Unless we get our act together (& soon) we're probably not looking at anything better than a .500 season.
 
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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 09/20/2010