Limited hope remains for the 2013 Atlanta Falcons season following a 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons record falls to 2-5 and with a tougher schedule upcoming, they may be hard-pressed to find more than a couple of wins on the rest of their schedule. The Falcons got outplayed by the Cardinals from the start, falling into a 21-6 hole at halftime, and any chance of coming back was negated by four second-half interceptions from Matt Ryan.
Ryan struggled, attempting a career-high 61 passes and completing 34 of them for 301 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions. The Falcons ground attack was pathetic, with Ryan leading the team with 13 yards rushing on a single carry. Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 8 yards on a pair of carries, while Steven Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time since Week 2 to rush for 6 yards on 11 carries. Harry Douglas led receivers with 12 catches for 121 yards. Drew Davis had 5 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown while Darius Johnson caught 4 passes for 40 yards. Tony Gonzalez was limited to just 3 catches for 26 yards. Matt Bryant connected on both of his field goal attempts of 24 and 30 yards. Matt Bosher punted 4 times for an average of 45.8 yards with 2 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned a pair of punts for an average of 13.5 yards, while Rodgers had two kickoff returns for a 27-yard average. The team generated only 292 total yards on 79 offensive plays. The Falcons continued to struggle in the red zone, converting only 1 of their 3 trips there. They converted 8 of 20 third down conversion attempts (40-percent), but the story offensively was the fact that four of their five offensive series ended in turnovers in the second half.
Defensively, the Falcons got gashed by the Cardinals rushing attack early. They gave up 201 rushing yards on 30 carries, including 153 on 13 carries in the first half. Atlanta was somewhat effective against the pass, allowing just 172 passing yards by Carson Palmer on 18 throws, sacking him three times and picking him off once. They even got stops on third down, allowing the Cardinals to convert only 3 of 10 attempts (30-percent). But the damage was done early in the game, with the Cardinals able to put points on the board thanks to some big plays in the first half. Jonathan Babineaux led defenders with 7 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 pass defended); Joplo Bartu (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Peria Jerry (1 tackle, 0.5 sacks); William Moore (3 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack); Asante Samuel (3 tackles, 1 interception); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Paul Worrilow (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.
The Falcons offense got off to a sluggish start on the opening series, going three-and-out as Ryan overthrew Gonzalez on a third down, leading to Bosher’s first punt. The Falcons defense responded forcing a three-and-out of their own. The Falcons were more effective moving the ball on the next series thanks to a 10-yard completion from Ryan to Gonzalez to convert on third down. But the next third down opportunity, Ryan was sacked by Marcus Benard after initial pressure from former Falcon John Abraham, to force a second Bosher punt. After a holding call backed up the Cardinals on the fourth play of the ensuing Cardinals series, Babineaux flushed Carson Palmer from the pocket. But Palmer’s throw to Andre Roberts was jumped by Samuel, and the Falcons took over in favorable field position at Arizona’s 31-yard line. After an 8-yard catch from Gonzalez put the Falcons at the 6-yard line, Ryan tried to hit Steven Jackson in the end zone, but the pass was broken up by Abraham on third down. Matt Bryant came out on the field and the Falcons settled for a 24-yard kick to take an early 3-0 lead.
On the third play of the next Cardinals series, Andre Ellington ran off the left side for a 22-yard gain. On the very next play, a broken coverage by Samuel and Moore led to a 51-yard completion to a wide open Teddy Williams. That put the ball at the Falcons 8-yard line, and three plays later at the outset of the second quarter Palmer found Larry Fitzgerald open in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown on another busted coverage.
The Falcons then mounted a 15-play, 66-yard scoring drive, but failed to punch it in again for a touchdown. Matt Ryan converted three third downs to keep the drive going, hitting Davis first for 20 yards, then Gonzalez for 8, and finally Douglas for 7 yards to put them in the red zone. But on the fourth third down attempt at the 13-yard line, Ryan’s pass was batted down by Karlos Dansby and the Falcons once again settled for a field goal. Bryant hit hit from 30 yards to cut the Cardinals lead to one point.
On the first play from scrimmage on the Cardinals next series, Andre Ellington bounced the play outside and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown untouched. The Cardinals quick answer gave them a 14-6 lead with 7:25 left in the second quarter.
The Falcons responded with a three-and-out thanks to a failed rushing attempt by Jackson on 3rd-and-1 that was bottled up for no gain. On the ensuing series, a pair of consecutive penalties on cornerback Desmond Trufant afforded the Cardinals 20 more yards in addition to the 20-yard catch made by Fitzgerald on the latter play. After three runs by Stepfan Taylor, the Cardinals found themselves at the Falcons 15-yard line as the two-minute warning hit. On the next play, Palmer hit Michael Floyd over the middle for a 15-yard score to give Arizona a 21-6 on three consecutive scoring drives.
After, the Falcons and Cardinals exchanged a pair of three-and-outs before Atlanta took over one more time at their own 27-yard line with 25 seconds left in the half. Ryan completed a 15-yard pass to Douglas before spiking the ball with 5 seconds left. But trying to get into position on a final play to kick a field goal, Abraham sacked Ryan and the first half ended with the Falcons still down 21-6.
The Cardinals opened up the second half by running the ball on three of their first five plays before the Falcons defense put the clamps down. On the sixth play of the drive, Jerry and Bartu combined for a coverage sack. Two plays later, pressure from William Moore forced an overthrow by Palmer on third down, and Dave Zastudil punted the ball back to the Falcons.
On third down of the next drive, Ryan’s pass to Chase Coffman was picked off by Daryl Washington, who stepped in front of the throwing lane. That gave Arizona the ball at the Atlanta’s 22-yard line, but the defense held thanks in large part to Babineaux’s strip of Ellington. Ellington was able to fall back on top of the loose ball, but it resulted in a loss of 9 yards. After a failed conversion on third down, Jay Feely came onto the field to connect on a 39-yard field goal to push Arizona’s lead to 24-6 with 7 minutes left in the third quarter
Ryan then led the Falcons on another long drive, grinding out the remainder of the time left on the clock in the third quarter. Ryan connected with Davis once and Douglas twice to convert on third down to get the ball into Arizona territory. But Frostee Rucker sacked Ryan, backing up the Falcons to 3rd-and-17 at the Cardinals 40-yard line, and Ryan threw another pick to Rashad Johnson on a deep pass to Darius Johnson into double coverage.
At the outset of the fourth quarter, the Cardinals did little to move the ball on a four-and-out before another Zastudil punt. A holding call on Robert McClain led to the Falcons starting their ensuing drive at their 1-yard line. But Ryan hit Johnson for a 14-yard pass to start to move the ball. But a few plays later the Falcons found themselves in another third down play, and Ryan’s pass to Davis was underthrown and picked off by Tyrann Mathieu.
With Arizona taking over at Atlanta’s 40-yard line, the Cardinals proceeded to run the ball and milk three minutes off the clock before settling for a 38-yard field goal from Feely.
The Falcons took over with 8:40 left in the game and put together an 80-yard scoring drive on 14 plays, resulting in their lone touchdown of the game. On the first third down of the drive, Ryan found Douglas on a 25-yard deep pass to get the ball to midfield. The Falcons failed to move the ball on their next three plays, but Ryan scrambled 13 yards to convert on fourth down. Ryan then connected on his next three passes to get the ball down to the 5-yard line. But again, the Falcons stalled on their next two plays. On 4th-and-2, Ryan tried to take a shot at Levine Toilolo in the back of the end zone, but the pass was incomplete. But Mathieu was flagged for pass interference giving the Falcons new life at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan hit Davis on a 4-yard touchdown on a throwback pass to give the Falcons their first touchdown with less than five minutes left in the game.
Bosher then recovered his own onside kick attempt, giving Atlanta the ball back at their 48-yard line with 4:38 left in the game. On the third play of the drive, Ryan hit Darius Johnson on a sideline pass for 11 yards. The play was initially ruled an incompletion, but Mike Smith challenged the call, and it was overturned to give the Falcons a first down in Cardinals territory. But on the next play, a sack by Calais Campbell backed up the Falcons to midfield. After a false start penalty on Justin Blalock backed up the Falcons further two plays later, Ryan underthrew a prayer to Douglas on 4th-and-19, which was picked off again by Rashad Johnson.
Arizona took over with 2:58 at their 41-yard line and proceeded to run the ball and bleed off much of hte remaining time off the clock. The Falcons did get another possession with 20 seconds left in the game, but the game ended after a 6-yard pass to Douglas was lateraled to Rodgers, who was tackled by Javier Arenas.
The Falcons will hope to rebound next week on the road against the Carolina Panthers.