When all else fails play the Arizona Cardinals. The Atlanta Falcons looked like their old selves Sunday as they dominated the Arizona Cardinals 40-14 in their season home finale.
The Falcons went on a 40-0 run to end their five-game losing streak, winning their first game since the first weekend of November. Matt Ryan threw for two scores and ran for a third to lead the Falcons who improve to 5-9 on the season.
The Falcons non-existent running game and defense reared their heads and are hopefully showing the Atlanta faithful what they have to look forward to the rest of the season and beyond.
Tevin Coleman ran for a career high 145 yards including a 43-yard run to extend the lead to 33-7 with 5:39 to go in the third quarter. And that wasn’t even his longest run of the game. On Atlanta’s third possession of the game Coleman ran for 65 yards around the right side to set up a Matt Bryant field goal to give the Falcons the lead for good at that point. Over all the Falcons ground out over 200 rushing yards that saw Ryan and Sanu in the act as well as Ito Smith who ran for 34 yards giving Coleman an occasional breather.
The much-maligned defense came through like something that hasn’t been seen before since the 2016 run. The Falcons sacked Cardinals quarterbacks a total of seven times, held RB David Johnson to 33 yards and won the turnover battle 3-0. The much-maligned and deservedly so offensive line found a groove early and gave Ryan ample time to connect with his receivers and opened huge holes for the running game.
The game began like most of the losing streak, however. Atlanta took the kickoff but the drive stalled at quickly thanks to a sack and penalties. Arizona marched 64 yards on the arm of Josh Rosen who hit Johnson on a nice catch and run along the right side for 40 yards to give the Cardinals a first down at the Atlanta 12. Johnson was able to push it through from a yard out with 8:25 to go in the opening quarter.
On Atlanta’s next possession they were three and out and you could hear some unsettling in the Mercedes Benz Stadium crowd. Things changed quickly after the change of possession. With great position on their 43 Rosen was picked off by Deion Jones, making only his second start after coming off IR. The Atlanta linebacker stepped in front of a pass intended for Johnson and ran it in to tie the game.
And that was all she wrote for Arizona.
That was the start of a 26-0 run to end the half as Ryan ran for a score and hit Julio Jones for one with 13 seconds to go in the half. The only play they didn’t execute well during the run was the two-point conversion after Jones’ touchdown.
Rosen, the Arizona rookie and heir to Carson Palmer was shaken and stirred often by the Falcons defense. After going 3-of-4 on the opening drive he went 10-of-18 the rest of the way with two interceptions and a lost fumble. With the game well out of hand midway through the fourth quarter Rosen gave way to Mike Glennon. With mop up duty, Glennon looked good completing 10-of-14 for 11 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came with 3:14 to play on a seven-yard toss to Trent Sherfield to bookend the 40 points scored by the Falcons. The 40 points was the most scored since November 4 when they scored 38 in defeating Washington and third first 40 point output this season. The 14 points surrendered by the defense was their lowest amount since the game against the Redskins where they only surrendered 14 as well.
Tevin Coleman’s offensive outburst came just in time for him. The third year running back, who is in a contract year, has been underwhelming filling in for Devonta Freeman who has missed the entire season minus the opener on IR.
With the win the Falcons technically climb out of the cellar as both they and Tampa Bay have the same 5-9 record. Atlanta holds the tiebreaker having own the first meeting between the two with the second coming on the season finale.
An interesting side story for the game was both team’s premiere receivers both wear number 11. Julio Jones faced off against the Cardinal’s Larry Fitzgerald. Both future Hall-of-Famers showed much love for each other after the game embracing and posing for pictures together. To make the match up even more appealing is that the two finished with almost identical stats. Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 82 yards and Jones six passes for 82 yards and a score.
The Falcons take to the road for the rest of the season. They travel up the east coast to take on the Carolina Panthers. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and will be aired of Fox.
– Dave Weinthal