It wasn’t the Atlanta Falcons’ strongest performance of the season, and facing off against David Johnson reminded all of us how porous this Falcons’ defense can be, but the Falcons got yet another win against one of the league’s better defenses, and they strengthened their hold on the NFC South.
The Cardinals won the toss and elected to receive, and they took advantage of it, slicing through the Falcons’ defense like a hot knife through butter and putting up seven points after a 75-yard, 5:21 drive culminated in a Carson Palmer touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham.
On the ensuing drive, the Falcons answered with a Devonta Freeman rushing touchdown. The Falcons were helped along by a Patrick Peterson defensive pass interference penalty that forced an incompletion on third down. This drive also featured a bit of trickery, with Mohamed Sanu taking a direct snap and running it for a gain of two yards.
The quarter expired with the Falcons and Cardinals tied 7-7.
Early in the second quarter, the Cardinals botched a snap and it killed a promising offensive drive. Despite David Johnson ripping up the Falcons’ defense on the ground and through the air, Atlanta was able to hold the Cardinals to a field goal, and Arizona took a 10-7 lead.
The Falcons again looked to Patrick Peterson for help, as the Cardinals cornerback committed defensive pass interference once more, and it nullified what would have been a Deone Bucannon interception. The Falcons had to settle for a field goal, but tied the game up 10-10.
Remember when the Falcons picked up Taylor Gabriel off waivers from the Browns before the season and Falcons fans were like, “Ugh, why are we signing guys the Browns don’t even want?” Well, this is why.
ARE YOU KIDDING, @TGdadon1?!— NFL (@NFL) November 27, 2016
This TD was straight out of @EAMaddenNFL. Unreal. #RiseUp https://t.co/z7Z3XJrA5E
Unfortunately, the Falcons also gave the Cardinals a shot to narrow Atlanta’s lead right before the half after Julio Jones bobbled a ball right into the waiting hands of D.J. Swearinger. Arizona was able to turn it into a field goal, and the Falcons took a 17-13 lead into the half.
Atlanta took possession to start the second half, and a sack on third and 16 meant Matt Wile, Matt Bosher’s fill in, had to punt. Somehow, the Falcons’ defense forced a three-and-out, getting the ball back in Matt Ryan’s hands.
Thirteen plays, 77 yards and six minutes and five seconds later, Tevin Coleman hauled it into the end zone, extending the Falcons’ lead over Arizona to 24-13.
The third quarter ended with a shared sack of Palmer by Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw. What a time to be alive.
If there were times when fans were nervous about the outcome of this game, those fears were probably assuaged in the fourth quarter, when the Falcons’ defense all of a sudden looked kind of passable and the offense looked damn near unstoppable.
Taylor Gabriel extended the Falcons’ lead over the Cardinals to 31-13 with a 25-yard touchdown. Gabriel is flourishing in this offense and it’s a delight.
I mean.... @TGdadon1— Carlton (@SlopingGiraffe) November 27, 2016
What a player. pic.twitter.com/O7KEXO3jEe
The defense, though able to get more pressure on Palmer throughout the fourth quarter, still had big time lapses, including allowing the Cardinals to execute a 75-yard touchdown drive. On the two-point conversion attempt, which would have narrowed the Falcons’ lead to 10 points, Jalen Collins used his height and length to break up the pass.
The Cardinals attempted an onside kick, but it was recovered by rookie Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. Devonta Freeman got into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, extending the Falcons’ lead to 38-19.
Arizona started driving again, but a DeVondre Campbell interception allowed the Falcons to take possession and knee it out for the win. The Falcons are 7-4, and today is a wonderful day.