Cards were coming off their first win (vs, Cincy). Falcons had a record of 1 - 4 and HC Dan Quinn's job was rumored to be on the line.
Botched XP by Falcs Secures Win for Cards
The Bottom Line:
In "normal" years, Atlanta would be considered a contender (battling Carolina, NO and TB for NFC South leadership. But this season had a different feel. At 1 - 4- 0, the Falcones were considered bottom feeders of their division. Despite their slow start, a Cardinal die-hards felt that they had a decent shot at winning this sucker. Most formidable Falcon asset was its cagey veteran QB (Matt Ryan) and a receiving group led by Julio Jones. Biggest potential Falcon liability was it the 800 lb losing gorilla on its back. Cards showed they had talent but still brdened with the reputtion fot being a collection of talented youngsters still figuring out who they were and what they could do.
After the Cardinals rang up a decent sized lead (20 - 10 at halftime) only to see it melt away under a relentless Atlanta offensive attack, Cardinal die-hards watched in stunned dismay as the Falcon field goal kicker (Bryant) lined up to kick the extra point that would tie the game with 1:53 left to play.
"Maybe he'll miss it" murmored one lobe of my brain. "Nah, Bryant hasn't missed an XP in a gazillion tries", replied the other lobe. "Be prepared to lose."
We won. Bryant shanked the kick. Go figure.
TD - Ridley - 7 yds pass from Ryan - Atlanta 7 - Cards 0
FG - Gonzalez - 39 yards - Atlanta 7 - Cards 3
1st Quarter Score: Falcons 7 - Cards 3
TD - Edmonds 2 yd pass from Murray - Cards 10 - Falcons 7
TD - D Johnson - 1 yd run - Cards 17 - Falcons 7
FG - Bryant - 29 yds - Cards 17 - Falcons 10
FG - Gonzalez - 22 yds - Cards 20 - Falcons 10
Halftme Score: Cards 20 - Falcons 10
TD - M Williams - 20 yd "against the grain" pass fr Murray - Cards 27 - Falcons 10
FG - Bryant - 44 yds - Cards 27 - Falcons 13
TD - Freeman - 7 yds pass from Ryan - Cards 27 - Falcons 20
- Third Quarter Score: Cards 27 - Falcons 20
TD -Hooper - 6 yds pass from Ryan - Cards 27 - Falcons 27
TD - D Johnson - 12 yd pass fr Murray - Cards 34 - Falcons 27
TD- Freeman - 12 yd pass from Ryan (XP failed) Cards 24 - Falcons 33
Final Score: Cards 34 - Falcons 33
Notable Game Stats.
First Downs: Cards 26 - Falcs 21
Total Net Yards : Cards 442 -Falcs 444
Rushes /Yds: Cards 29 for 102 - Falcs 25 for 103
Passing: Murray 27 for 37...0 Int...340
................Ryan 30 for 36...0 Int...356
Sacked: Cards 0 for 0 - Falcs 2 for 15 yds
Rushing: Edmonds 5 for 34 yds...D Johnson 13 carries for 34...Murray 11 for 32 yds
................ Freeman 19 carries for 88 yds.
Receiving: Fitz 6 for 69...D Johnson 6 for 68
................:.Hooper 8 for 117...J Jones 8 for 108...Ridley 4 for for 48
Penalties - Cards 8 for 57...Falcs 8 for 72
Missed FGs - Cards 0...Falcs 0
Missed XPs - Cards 0 - Falcons 1
Possession - Cards 27:13...Falcs 32:47
The "Bright Side"
We won .
- Murray was "interception-free" again
- Kudos to Cardinal OL - Murray not sacked
20 to 10 halftime margin.
No fumbles lost
Offense had few problems movingthe ball up and down the field.
The Dark Side
- Defense let Atlanta get back in game in 3Q and 4Q
- Falcs posted 2 Td's in the 4Q to melt our lead.
DBs couldn't shut down "hot" receiver (J Jones) or TE (Hooper) - 8 grabs apiece
Being a hard-core pro football fan is becoming less and less a matter of enjoying the ins and outs of the game and more and more a matter of "Who Can Make the Most Accurate Forecast." I believe this is less a matter of "Team A will win tomorrow" or "score 36 points" the day after" and more a function of how the odds may play out over time - i.e. less a matter of "Team A will absolutely/positively beat Team B" and more a matter of "there's a better than 50-50 possibility that Team A will beat Team B."
In the case of the Atlanta Falcons, it seemed to me that there was a 50-50 chance that Murray would either have a career game or conversely could blow up big time. (He's young. You never know). I also felt that Matt Ryan's skill, experience and smarts along with Julian Jones's game breaking skills gave Atlanta an overall edge.
As it turns out, the margin of victory was determined by their FG kicker. Go figure.
Also - hidden beneath all the razzle-dazzle of a rookie QB capable of lighting things up was the absence of any major gaffes by Kyler Murray. No sacks. No interceptions. No fumbles. 70% completions - just enough to win by a missed XP. If he can play mistake- free while gradually ratcheting up his decision-making and skill-set, Cardinal fans are in for a very pleasant experience.
Final word of caution - We didn't win the Super Bowl. We still have an entertaining roller-coaster ride in front of us. I expect us to improve the "old fashioned way" gradually, snap by snap. (Kid and his surrounding cast still have a lot to learn. Go get 'em, K-1.