It had not happened in more than 40 years. A quarterback fails to throw a touchdown while tossing five interceptions yet his team wins. In a season that began with their biggest division rival being devastated by a bounty scandal, where they were gifted a schedule that likely includes only two playoff teams, the Atlanta Falcons had karma on their side again Sunday beating Arizona 23-19. Despite throwing five picks, Atlanta's Matt Ryan was without question the best signal caller to take snaps at the Georgia Dome. Sometimes having a capable QB, even if he has the worst game of his career, is better than having no quarterback at all.
While Ryan was intercepted five times, he threw for 301 yards and led a seven play, 70 yard game winning drive midway through the fourth quarter. Falcon RB Michael Turner scored on a one yard rush to cap the rally. Ryan shook off his early troubles by completing four of five passes for 64 yards including a nine yard dart to TE Tony Gonzalez that set up Turner with first and goal at the one yard line.
Meanwhile the Cardinal QB tandem of John Skelton and Ryan Lindley had Arizona fans dreaming of the injured and unspectacular Kevin Kolb. It seems like a long time ago that Kolb replaced Skelton in the season opener and helped Arizona to a 4-0 start that featured a 20-18 win at New England. Since Kolb went down early in a week five loss at St. Louis, the Cards have not tasted victory.
On Sunday, Skelton, owner of the NFL's worst QB rating, was lifted after starting the game two of seven for six yards. He departed with Arizona leading 13-3 early in the second quarter. Lindley took over but was no better. Cardinal coach Ken Whisenhunt used a portion of his bye week to prepare the rookie from San Diego State for game action. Lindley completed only nine passes in 20 attempts for 64 yards. He was sacked three times. The Cardinals converted just two third downs in 16 tries. The poor play under center overshadowed a surprisingly good Arizona ground game.
Entering play with the worst rushing offense in the league, Arizona RB LaRod Stephens-Howling was active from the get go. When Ryan was intercepted on the first play of the game, Stephens-Howling rushed for nine yards on two carries including a three yard TD to begin the afternoon for the Cardinals. He finished with a season high 127 yards on 22 carries. It is the second 100 yard rushing day of the season for the University of Pittsburgh product.
Atlanta plays division rivals Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Carolina the next three weeks before hosting the New York Giants on December 16. The Bucs have won four straight but rank last in the NFL in passing defense. The Saints have won three straight and five of six after starting the year 0-4. New Orleans gives up more yards than any team in the league. Carolina is in the same boat as Arizona. The Panthers are waiting for next year to begin. At least their quarterback might have a future.