If you can say one thing about the 2019 Atlanta Falcons, it’s that they truly figure out new and creative ways to lose. A different offense graced the field in the second half of the Falcons’ stunning loss to the Cardinals, courtesy of up-tempo play-calling at the line of scrimmage. After clawing their way back from a double-digit deficit, a missed extra point halted the comeback effort and sent Atlanta to the airport sporting an abysmal 1-5 record.
Here’s the good and the real bad from the 34-33 loss to the Cards.
Matt Ryan has done a decent job at cleaning up his early season errors and is quietly putting together a very solid year under center. He’s behind only Kansas City wunderkind Patrick Mahomes in passing yards with 2,011, and he leads the league in passing touchdowns with 15. He built on his recent good work on Sunday, going 30/36 for 356 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
A quarterback should not be on the losing side with a line like that, but such is the way of this season’s Atlanta Falcons.
Calvin Ridley’s touchdown
A gorgeous opening drive was capped off with some nifty route work by wide receiver Calvin Ridley. On Arizona’s 9-yard-line, Ridley faked a motion in the backfield to open up space ahead of him and snagged the pass from Matt Ryan. He used his speed and shiftiness to beat one defender, and then lowered his shoulder to drive Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson into the end zone. It was a swell way for the Falcons to secure their first opening drive touchdown of the season.
Kendall Sheffield’s first career start
There was some warranted concern once Desmond Trufant was ruled out with a toe injury, leading the Falcons to start rookie cornerback Kendall Sheffield on the outside. It was a tall task, but Sheffield turned in an encouraging effort for a secondary unit that’s been pretty dreadful.
Dan Quinn singled him out as one of the few bright spots in Atlanta’s loss, and indicated that he may continue to start when Desmond Trufant returns.
David Johnson’s reception
What in the blue hell was this? With the Cardinals on their own 38-yard-line, quarterback Kyler Murray completed a checkdown to David Johnson who...nobody decided to cover. Seriously, there was no defender in the same area code. Johnson would trot 30 yards before he was taken down, and he would cap off the drive with a one-yard touchdown two plays later.
We should have known that the officiating would be an issue when Cardinals wide receiver Trent Sherfield’s first quarter catch was ruled a reception when he clearly didn’t have two feet down. It would get worse.
After Kyler Murray found Damiere Byrd for a 58-yard reception to start the second quarter, he was tackled by Isaiah Oliver and lost the football. He was ruled down by contact, but reviews showed that Byrd never actually touched the ground before losing control. Dan Quinn rightly challenged the call, and the review officials wrongly upheld it.
Then, of course, there was the Kyler Murray third down conversion that looked short of the marker that was again, upheld on review.
The Falcons do a pretty bang-up job losing on their own — they do not need help from the referees.
Vic Beasley’s two penalties
Late in fourth quarter, with the score knotted at 27-27 and the Falcons attempting to seal the comeback attempt with a defensive stop, Vic Beasley found a way to get flagged twice on one play. The Cardinals would decline the defensive holding penalty and accept Beasley’s personal foul for 15 yards. They would take the lead on a David Johnson touchdown a couple of plays later, which proved to be the game-winner.
Matt Bryant misses the extra point
Let me be clear right up front: Matt Bryant is not the reason that the Falcons lost this game. That blame falls squarely at the feet of the defense. But it was certainly jarring — and also somewhat fitting — that Atlanta’s second half comeback effort would fall short on a missed extra point, leaving the Falcons and their fans shell-shocked at the way this one ended.