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5 Lessons Learned from Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals

The Falcons seemed ready to pack in the season on Sunday. Playing at home against an Arizona Cardinals team on a five game losing streak seemed like a guaranteed win. Matt Ryan threw a career high five interceptions (three off tips), with the Falcons turning the ball over a ridiculous six times.  

The offensive line was frequently blown up and dominated with Sam Baker playing like the Sam Baker of old. The defense ran hot and cold against likely the league's worst offensive line, mediocre running backs and carousel of terrible quarterbacks. Of course our defense has the excuse of starting in their own red zone on three separate turnovers.  

I apologize to those of you carnival folk but what an ugly loss. I pull out five points of interest about the game and our team after the jump.

The Cardinals are bad. Very bad. The Falcons did their very best to hand the Cardinals the game but the Ryan Lindley-led Cardinals struggled to capitalize. If Atlanta played this flat against a semi-competent team that could convert over 12% of their 3rd down situations the Falcons would have lost by 40 points. In a concerning pattern the Falcons are incapable of moving the ball outside of the hurry up offense in the last two minutes of a half.

A quick five points about this game and our team:

1.  The Falcons are still giving Michael Turner the rock. Chris Mortensen reported/guessed the Falcons will get Jacquizz and Snelling with Michael Turner struggling to run the ball. That didn't happen with Turner getting 15 carries and Quizz and Snelling combining for only 6. Turner managed to bust one of his ~10 yard runs to salvage his terrible stats and managed just over 3 YPC. HE did manage a nice 1 yard touchdown. However it was more of the same from Turner, plodding to get to the line of scrimmage, getting easily arm tackled and of course, dropping easy passes.  

2.  The Falcons are getting injured. Sean Weatherspoon was out today and our linebackers have struggled without him. Stephen Nicholas has made very few impact plays and Akeem Dent does not look ready to start. Not helping anything was Asante Samuel leaving the game (twice) and Julio Jones not making it through another game. Atlanta will struggle if a number of our best players have trouble getting on the field.

3.  Roddy White had 123 yards and is struggling. White had his man beat likely for a touchdown but seemed to have no idea when the ball was supposed to come his way. Reminds me a bit of the play where he beat his man but failed to pull in a game winning touchdown last week because he could not locate the football. Oh, and Roddy easily popped up Ryan's first interception. I am getting a bit worried about Roddy and these bad mental lapses.

4.  The offensive line has been disintegrating. The Falcons started the year with the offensive line being their weak spot. Shockingly we looked nearly average for the early part of the year, but times have changed and we are a line full of weak points. We saw Sam Baker give up some easy pressures and bad blocking by Blalock and Clabo. The Cardinals defense is somewhat underrated but should not have given us the trouble we got today.

5.  Matt Ryan is turning into a gunslinger. Alright, maybe gunslinger isn't the right word. However, Ryan remained confident in this game and battled back from four interceptions to lead the Falcons down the field for Michael Turner's game deciding touchdown. Many quarterbacks would respond by checking down or calling audibles into more runs but Ryan fought back. I have said this WAY too many times this year but learning to win ugly is important in the NFL. It seemed like last year when everything would go wrong the Falcons would have an embarrassing defeat. The Falcons turned the ball over a ridiculous six times but pulled out the win.

The Falcons have plenty to work on, struggling in pass protection, run offense and run defense, but inexplicably remain the NFL's only 9-1 team. Atlanta will have a busy week preparing for a surging Tampa Bay and a short week to rematch New Orleans. More than any time this year, the next 1.5 weeks will be the most definitive span of this season.

Get more great Atlanta Falcons news and analysis over at The Grits Blitz.


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