Another ugly, painful, sloppy game, another victory for the Falcons.
That's how things are going for Atlanta right now, who continue to sport the best record in the NFL despite some shaky performances. But a win is a win, and at 9-1, it's hard to complain.
By beating the Cardinals, the Falcons secured their fifth consecutive winning season. For most franchises, this wouldn't be a big deal, especially considering how well Atlanta has done in the playoffs over this span. For for an organization that failed to string together back-to-back winning seasons for over 40 years, it should be considered a significant achievement.
After Matt Ryan broke his personal record for passing yards last week against New Orleans, he set another milestone on Sunday. The Atlanta quarterback tossed five interceptions versus Arizona, more than he's ever thrown in an NFL game. Somehow, he was still able to lead the Falcons to victory despite his turnovers—joining Bart Starr as the only QBs in league history to throw for five INTs and still win. From the AJC:
“Part of playing this position in this league is knowing that there will be times when you make mistakes and fall flat on your face,” said Ryan, who completed 28 of 46 passes for 301 yards. “You just have to get up and keep playing.”
Michael Turner continued to struggle against the Cardinals, but he was able to punch the football into the endzone in a goal-line situation—something he was unable to do last week in New Orleans. As was the case versus the Saints, the Falcons goal-line offense proved to be a major difference-maker on Sunday. Turner finished the day with 46 yards on 15 carries (3.1 YPC), which is turning into somewhat of a typical stat line for No. 33.
"It felt good, it felt good for the team and for the O-line and everybody to punch it in from the 1-yard line," said Turner. "It was kinda symbolic of last week. So we knew we had to go ahead and finish it off. And it was great that we did it on the first try."
On a day when the Falcons offense struggled throughout the game, Mike Nolan's defense stepped up and kept the team close enough to eek out a win. Sure, the Cardinals didn't exactly have quality quarterbacks under center, and they did surrendered 127 rushing yards to LaRod Stephens-Howling; but the D did just enough to secure the victory, so kudos to them.
As you know, Matt Ryan and the Falcons are very good when playing in the comfortable confines of the Georgia Dome. How good? Ryan is 31-4 at home, which is the best mark for any QB that began his career in the Super Bowl Era. Atlanta has also won nine straight home games—the longest streak for this franchise since the turn of the millenium.
Some more stats I found interesting: The Falcons have been incredible at bouncing back after a loss during Coach Smith's tenure. Atlanta is now 19-3 after a defeat since the start of the 2008 season. Also, Ryan earned his 20th fourth quarter comeback on Sunday—the most since 2008 and the most in a QBs first five seasons since 1966.
Also of note: Michael Turner, despite all the criticism he's received, is now second all-time in Falcons history in touchdowns with 56. He needs just one more to tie Terrence Mathis for the top spot. If you boo'd Turner on Sunday or at any point this season, think about that before you do so again.
Following the game, Mike Smith took responsibility for a big mental error on his part, when he threw a challenge flag on an automatically reviewable play. Had the Falcons lost, there would be a lot of fans heavily criticizing Smith—especially after last week when he made a questionable decision not to go for a two point conversion in the middle of the fourth quarter. At least this was the kind of mistake that shouldn't happen again.
"We have to find a way for the coach not to throw a challenge flag at the wrong time," Smith said. "You've got lots of people talking in your ear...It was my mistake. My guys bailed me out today."