I had thought this was the game that the Atlanta Falcons would use to begin a long run toward the playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals happen to be a team like the Falcons who are looking for a spark to make them relevant in NFL circles, especially in the circus of the NFC West.
Behind a stinging defense, Andre Ellington’s breakout game and four interceptions by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Arizona became the team fans noticed in a big way on Sunday.
The 27-13 win in Arizona proved that Bruce Arians and his offense is working in the desert, and the Cardinals may be a spoiler in the NFC playoff picture.
It also meant Ryan would have nightmares of Cardinal red on Sunday night. While it seems Ryan is not as giving to other teams he has played this year, he appears to be tremendously forthcoming against Arizona. The four interceptions and 10 knockdowns by the Cardinals defense, led by Calais Campbell were enough to make anyone want to curl up in a fetal position. Add to it the 154 yards by rookie Andre Ellington and Atlanta may not want to travel want to travel out west anytime soon.
Here are five things we learned from this afternoon’s game.
Matt Ryan just did not have it this week
He threw for 301 yards and a touchdown. But the four interceptions makes you wonder if the offense has taken a step back. Yes, Roddy White and Julio Jones were out, but Harry Douglas stepped up.
Ryan has been maligned this season. Yes, injuries hurt this team on offense, but it looked like the defense totally dominated this game from the start.
Ellington runs free
Andre Ellington was quoted before the season that he wanted to compete for a starting job in the Arizona. I think the rookie made a statement today. A game where he ran for 154 yards in 15 carries and a touchdown makes you think a guy with his size and speed can be a difference maker in the NFL.
He will cause nightmares for the Falcons’ defenders Sunday night.
Mathieu is really good
When we look back at the NFL season and the player teams should have drafted, can I offer them Tyrann Mathieu?
The rookie from LSU was such a gamble with teams because of his off-field issues at LSU, but now they all might be kicking themselves. Mathieu had an interception and played inspiring football and was solid in the Cardinals secondary.
Bruce Arians is making me a believer
The NFC is one of those divisions where all four at some point could be in playoff contention. Arizona has a great defense - if he can ever get his offense to move consistently, this is a team that could not only be explosive, it could be exciting.
Fitzgerald is phenomenal
According to ESPN.com, “Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, in the process becoming the youngest player -- at 30 years, 57 days -- in NFL history to reach 800 career receptions.”