The season enters its final stages as we head toward the New Year, and it will once again be another campaign with no post season football for the Falcons. Their final non-divisional game will be a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, against whom they trail in the series history 17-15.
Much like the rest of the NFL used to, the Cardinals (back when they were still in St. Louis) beat up on the Falcons in the ‘70s. After Atlanta won the first matchup ever — the last win in their inaugural season of 1966 — the Cards won five in a row between 1968-1978. They then won four more in a row between the mid-80s and early-90s after Atlanta found some success in the form of three wins in four meetings to kick off the ‘80s.
The Cardinals, now in Arizona after a move to the Grand Canyon state and a couple of re-names, held dominance throughout the ‘90s and led the head to head matchup 13-6 following their triumph in 1997, but things changed from the start of 1999.
Atlanta is 9-4 against the Cardinals since their game in the ‘99 season, including four straight wins between that meeting and 2006 and then another five wins in six tries between 2010-2018. The Cardinals did win the biggest singular matchup between these teams, however, triumphing on home territory in the 2008 Wildcard game on the back of a dominant performance from Larry Fitzgerald, one which helped catapult their surprise run to the Super Bowl.
Memorable games for the Falcons include the 23-19 victory in 2012 (to move to 9-1) where they won despite Matt Ryan throwing five interceptions, and the 29-18 win in 2014 where Julio Jones burned Patrick Peterson for 189 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Sitting at 1-4 and coming off of a shellacking at the hands of the Houston Texans, Atlanta desperately needed a victory against a desperate team in its own right in the 1-3-1 Cardinals.
Despite striking first behind an opening drive Calvin Ridley touchdown, this was a rendition of the Falcons which played no defense as evidenced by the 30.4 points per game which they allowed at this point in the season, and the result was a 340-yard, three-touchdown field day for rookie Kyler Murray. Arizona put together five consecutive scoring drives to open the game, and jumped out to a 27-10 second half lead.
Atlanta pulled itself together on defense in the second half and Matt Ryan put together three touchdown scoring drives to bring the Falcons just about all the way back. Devonta Freeman caught a 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter to pull the Falcons within one, but Matt Bryant missed the ensuing extra point to ensure a heartbreaking defeat.
Atlanta fell to 1-5 and their season was over just as quickly as it started. They finished the campaign at 7-9, while this was the first of three straight wins to bring the Cardinals back to .500 at 3-3-1, before they collapsed and finished the campaign at 5-10-1.