The Atlanta Falcons beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon 38-19 in what many consider to be Atlanta’s best all-around showing this season. A lot of people were troubled by the start that the Falcons defense had, as the Cardinals drove the ball right down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive, but after that the defense settled down and held the Cardinals to under 20 points. On the offensive end, the Falcons had their way with the league’s number one defense in a 38-point display of offensive prowess.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual performances from Sunday.
- Taylor Gabriel, 85.0: Wow, this guy. First off, thank you Cleveland. Secondly, Gabriel may be the most explosive player the Falcons have had on their roster since Antone Smith. Two bubble screens went for touchdowns as Gabriel showed his shiftiness, juking out the entire Cardinals defense in one play. Gabriel had four catches for 75 yards, 73 of which were after the catch. What a fun guy to watch and an absolutely perfect fit for this offense.
- Alex Mack, 83.0 & Ryan Schraeder, 82.9: It seemed like every other play I would notice Alex Mack running down the field as the play progressed, blocking guys all the way down the field and doing so without holding. This was one of the better performances for Schraeder as well as the entire offensive line against one of the more talented pass-rushing groups they have faced this season. Except for the opening drive of the second half—the Cardinals recorded three sacks on one drive—Matt Ryan had plenty of time to deliver the ball down the field.
- Matt Ryan, 81.7: I would imagine that Ryan’s grade would be higher if he didn’t throw the one interception that wasn’t really his fault, but there were still a number of throws that were incredibly close calls. A throw to Julio over the middle that was almost picked off by D.J. Swearinger but was dropped, thankfully. Ryan played a really solid game and once again acted as a point-guard on the field, distributing the ball to over five receivers once again. The offense was a little more conservative, only attempting to throw the ball down the field (10 yards or more) five times all game.
- Grady Jarrett, 85.9: Grady has put together a pretty decent string of games recently but he continues to struggle to finish plays: he had a couple of missed tackles in the backfield yesterday despite being in great position to create a negative play. Nonetheless, Jarrett is finding ways to use his leverage and strength to consistently work opposing offensive linemen, and yesterday was a pretty clear display that Jarrett has a great future in the NFL.
- De’Vondre Campbell, 83.5 & Vic Beasley, 82.6: Campbell is the answer to the Falcons’ recent struggles when it comes to linebackers failing in pass coverage: he was targeted nine times and only allowed five catches for just over 60 yards. PFF rated him as above average in coverage for the third straight week—this kid is good. Vic Beasley continues to show that he is capable of being a premier pass rusher in the NFL. Yesterday he had six quarterback hurries and two hits in what many would consider to be his most productive game—I guess sacks aren’t absolutely everything (Mike Smith nods his head).
- Brooks Reed, 82.7: Another key member of the Falcons pass rush was Brooks Reed. Reed had one sack and five hurries Sunday and was a pretty consistent force on the line of scrimmage. Reed is just one of the players that has emerged as a significant contributor to the Falcons pass rush and the revamped defense that we have seen this season.
This was probably the best all-around game we have seen this team play against one of the more talented teams and better defense they have played all season. I was incredibly concerned that we would see a defense Sunday that couldn’t stop anybody, no matter who they were—a number of people called the Falcons the worst defense in the league after that drive—but they settled in and played a fantastic game of complementary football. Let’s hope that they can continue to play this way against a great Kansas City team this coming Sunday.
Do all of you think that Pro Football Focus got it right this week?