The Falcons went into their week 8 game against the Cardinals intending to keep the defensive line fresh. In their week 7 victory over the Buccaneers, rookies Stansly Maponga and Malliciah Goodman logged 21 and 35 snaps respectively. Call it a reversion to the rotation-minded approach that has historically been Mike Smith's bread and butter, call it putting the veterans on notice, the Falcons had to do something to improve along the defensive front.
The defensive line was responsible for 2.5 sacks on Sunday. They pressured Carson Palmer but he still had a pretty efficient game. Through week 7, the Cardinals' offensive line ranked 19th in adjusted sack rate. For that reason, in my estimation, week 8 presented as an opportunity. I don't believe the Falcons took advantage of that opportunity. Palmer went 13 of 18 for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not exactly elite play from the veteran, just enough to beat the now-lowly Falcons. In short, and this really is the simplest way to put it, we made Palmer look way better than he actually is.
The Cardinals' running game also gave the Falcons fits. Andre Ellington, in his first NFL start, rushed for over 150 yards on 15 carries, averaging over 10 yards/carry. Not exactly how you'd like us to perform against a running back who, before week 8, didn't even have his coach's stamp of approval.
Slicing through Arizona blockers to make plays along the line and in the backfield, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux put up his highest [PFF] grade of the season – and tops since mid-way through 2011 — on the strength of positives in both run defense and as a pass rusher.
Babineaux may be 32, and this is probably his last season as a Falcon, but he's certainly earning the $4.7 million we're paying him this year (not counting his $500,000 roster bonus).
All in all, the defensive line was inconsistent at best. They had their moments, but overall, they underwhelmed, making a decidedly mediocre Cardinals offense look pretty darn good. Next to the
creampuff teddy bears we've assigned to protect our $100 million quarterback offensive line, the defensive line is shaping up to be biggest area of need.