The Falcons may still have a top five pick when all is said and done, because there are two games left and Atlanta has shown this year that they can’t be trusted to do much of anything right. But while it did hurt their draft position, for one afternoon the Falcons were fun and dominant again against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
And this was the difference between Atlanta and Arizona, in the end: The Falcons still have the talent to pull a great game out of the turf, as one summons a demon from a circle etched into the ground, and the Cardinals really don’t. It’s frustrating that this team is beating the everloving crap out of Arizona this late in the season, when it’s really too late and they’re moving out of a top five selection, but it’s a reminder that this team is still capable of quality play and should be okay next year with the necessary adjustments. The Cardinals have a long way to go.
The team simply dominated, allowing an early touchdown to Arizona and then shutting down the Cardinals with three turnovers, multiple sacks, and an overall strong effort. The offense wasn’t nearly as good but was still instrumental in the Falcons scoring 40 points for the first time in very recent memory, It was a game that meant little—we knew how bad Arizona was—but it showed the Falcons were still capable of quality efforts, and I’m sure it’s going to be a giant relief in Flowery Branch after the previous five losses.
Again, the Falcons may well lose their final two games, but at some point they had to prove to themselves that they were capable of a game like this, and they did. The team’s 2019 fortunes still depend on what they can manage in the offseason, so this was little more than a moral victory. But I bet it was a sweet one for Atlanta, and it was a rare fun afternoon for the Falcons this fall, one that made me temporarily forget just how awful this season has been. I’ll take that and still hope for that top ten selection.
On to the drive-by-drive recap.
Matt Ryan missed Julio Jones on first down, but he hit Calvin Ridley on second down for 9 and picked up two on a scramble to get the first first down of the game. Then Ryan got sacked on first down, managed to find Ridley for 4, and got a first down on a hookup to Mohamed Sanu that was erased by a Tevin Coleman penalty. The Falcons have killed too many drives with penalties, and that killed another one. Punt.
Josh Rosen was backed up by an Arizona penalty, but still found Larry Fitzgerald for an eight yard gain. Then David Johnson picked up four on a quick run to the right, and then Josh Rosen found Johnson downfield for a 40 yard pickup. An incomplete pass, non-existent pickup by Chase Edmonds, and false start should have doomed Arizona, but instead they picked up a first down and then a touchdown in short order despite a reversal. Embarrassing play by the Falcons defense.
Falcons 0 - Cardinals 7
The Falcons couldn’t answer, managing zero yards on their first two plays and then getting Matt Ryan sacked again for a loss of six. Punt.
The Cardinals decided to gift wrap the Falcons a festive pick six, and Deion Jones was only too glad to receive it. Debo took Rosen’s throw to the house to tie things up for Atlanta.
Falcons 7 - Cardinals 7
The Cardinals looked stally but managed the first down to start things off, though Vic Beasley and Deadrin Senat backed them up three yards with a run stop on first down. Bruce Irvin got his second sack in two weeks to doom the Arizona drive for good. Punt.
The Falcons got off to a killer start with Tevin Coleman’s 65 yard scamper to bring the Falcons within scoring distance. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it done, with some questionable play calling and an Austin Hooper screw-up dooming them to a 22 yard field goal Matt Bryant hit in his sleep.
Falcons 10 - Cardinals 7
The Falcons were, at this point, mixing awful plays on run defense with really solid ones. The Cardinals got a first down but then saw David Johnson stuffed by Steven Means on first down the next time out.
The Falcons started things off with a bang, with a big sack and forced fumble for Grady Jarrett that Brian Poole scooped up. Turnover!
The Falcons took advantage, driving with passes to Julio Jones and Ito Smith and getting to the goal line. Matt Ryan was able to sneak it in for the touchdown to give the Falcons a two score lead.
Falcons 17 - Cardinals 7
Three and out for Arizona, with Sharrod Neasman making a couple of nice run stops and Brian Poole nabbing a sack of Rosen. Punt.
Tevin Coleman picked up eight on his first carry of the drive, but then lost four yards on second down. Fortunately, an eight yard reception by Calvin Ridley picked up a first down. Marvin Hall got 10 after that, and then Justin Hardy for 18, and then Ito Smith for several, and then Julio for 17. The Falcons ultimately stalled out—because of course they did—but Matt Bryant was good from 33 and they still got on the board.
Falcons 20 - Cardinals 7
Arizona actually punted again here. You don’t need the nitty-gritty. I was actually having some fun at this moment.
Ridley for seven to start things off, and the Falcons wound up at 3rd and 1 but saw Ryan unable to connect with Julio. Punt, also.
Rosen to Seals-Jones for 9 to kick things off on this drive, and they got a first down on a short run before reverting to maximum Cardinals and picking up a penalty, incompletion, pass deflection by Deion Jones, and then an interception by Brian Poole for the team’s third turnover of the game.
With the ball back yet again, the offense tried its very best to get moving. The Falcons got Julio prominently involved to that end, and got him prominently involved at the end as Ryan found #11 for a very pretty touchdown, Julio’s sixth of the season. The rout was on, even if the two point attempt fails.
Falcons 26 - Cardinals 7
The Cardinals kneeled. Halftime!
The Cardinals went three and out despite getting eight yards on first down. Go figure.
The Falcons got Russell Gage involved with Julio Jones temporarily out, and Gage picked up 33 yards on a pair of receptions to start things off. The Falcons would stall out with some key drops by Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley, as they so often have this year, and have to punt again.
The Cardinals picked up 13, but their joy was short-lived because Steven Means sacked Rosen on first down and dropped him for a seven yard loss. Then Jack Crawford sniffed out the short pass and dropped the Cardinals for a loss. The Cardinals got 13 on third down, but it was nine yards short of what they needed, and they had to punt yet again.
The Falcons got a beautiful 16 yard run out of Ito Smith, partially due to a brilliant Eric Saubert block. But Tevin Coleman provided the decisive run of the drive, galloping 43 yards for a touchdown to put the Falcons up even more.
Falcons 33 - Cardinals 7
The Cardinals were just being embarrassed at this point, but instead of getting back in the saddle, they got dragged behind the horse. Grady Jarrett blew up more than one play and Bruce Irvin picked up his second sack of the game to doom the drive. Punt.
The Falcons got 10 from Ito Smith on two rushes, and Justin Hardy remained involved. Then Sanu picked up five on a pass from Ryan to end the quarter.
The Falcons scored on, of all things, a five yard touchdown pass to Justin Hardy. The rout was fully developed at this point, got its diploma, and went off to college.
Falcons 40 - Cardinals 7
The Cardinals just continued to dither. Vic Beasley sacked Rosen, David Johnson got nowhere, and a five yard pickup on third down was too little, too late. Punt.
The Falcons tried but didn’t do a whole heck of a lot on their next drive, and had to punt.
Mike Glennon came in because the Cardinals were sad and banged up, and Grady Jarrett finished off the inevitable short drive by sacking Glennon. Punt...or not, as the Cardinals converted a fourth down. Then Mike Glennon, shamefully yet appropriately, actually led Arizona to a touchdown.
Falcons 40 - Cardinals 14
The Falcons decided they just wanted to end this one with a huge win, so they gave the ball to Brian Hill, who managed seven yards on three carries. It’s good for the team to get a look at Hill, who could be their #3 back next year. Punt.
Glennon snagged 17 on a first down pass and 16 to Fitzgerald on the next play, but then missed a connection and had just 15 seconds left. A three yard pass later, it was over, and the Falcons won handily.