The playoff “dream” may be over.
The Falcons fell at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 27-13, and with that, the team has fallen to 2-5 on the 2013 season. There were many goats (and not many heroes) for Atlanta, but in the end, it was an utterly dismal 2nd quarter that sent things south for the road team.
Arizona tallied 3 touchdowns in the 15-minute 2nd quarter, and with that, they flipped the game from a 3-0 deficit to a 21-6 advantage. Larry Fitzgerald caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer, on the first play of the quarter, to cap an 80-yard touchdown drive, and while the Falcons “answered” with a Matt Bryant field goal, the big damage was still to come.
After the field goal, Cardinals running back Andre Ellington took the first play of the ensuing drive 80 yards (yes, 80) to the house to give Arizona a 14-6 lead, and Arizona never looked back. Carson Palmer hooked up with Michael Floyd on a 15-yard touchdown pass at the 2-minute mark, and at 21-6, the game was effectively over.
The Falcons mounted a mini-run in the 4th quarter, after Matt Ryan (finally) threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Drew Davis. Following the score, Matt Bosher recovered his own onside kick, and their was faint hope, but after Ryan’s 4th and final interception of the game, the push was short-lived.
Speaking of Ryan, it certainly wasn’t the best effort for “Matty Ice”. He did throw for 301 yards while setting a personal “best” for passing attempts (a staggering 61 on the day), but the 4 interceptions were costly. In his defense, there didn’t seem to much (read: any) separation from his banged-up crew of receivers, but that many turnovers is indefensible. It should certainly be noted that he was placed in tough positions, but the loss was far from his fault alone.
For the 2nd straight game, the Falcons couldn’t muster any attack whatsoever on the ground. Steven Jackson returned with considerable fanfare, but didn’t look to be himself in registering 11 carries for 6 yards (sigh), and backup Jacquizz Rodgers only toted the rock twice. It’s never a good sign when Matt Ryan (who had 1 carry for 13 yards) is the team’s leading rusher, but that’s where we find ourselves on Sunday.
On the somewhat positive side, the defense performed admirably, holding Arizona to only 348 total yards, but the Ellington play hurt badly and the red zone defense left a lot to be desired. It’s tough to glean anything positive from this game, but there were a few quality efforts on that side of the ball.
With this loss, the picture is extremely dismal for the hometown Falcons. At 2-5, Atlanta is a staggering 4 games behind the Saints in the division race (this one is over), and if the season ended today, the 5-3 Detroit Lions would own the #6 seed in the playoffs. Mathematically, there is still a ray of hope for the playoffs, but with the way things looked today combined with an increasingly ugly record, the evidence is mounting in the other direction.