Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Report card: Falcons find a way to finish off Cardinals

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Taylor Gabriel scored two touchdowns to help the Falcons blow out the Cardinals 38-19 on Sunday. The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter reports from the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons pulled away from the Cardinals in the second-half of their 38-19 victory on Sunday.

"I knew we’d respond to the finish, but we have to be put into those spots," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "Going into this, I knew it was going to come down to that. It’s a very good outfit in Arizona in terms of the way, the style, the features that they use, and their players both defensively and offensively. I knew this one was going to take the entire day and it certainly did. “

Here are the grades:

Game balls: Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and punter Matt Wile.

Quarterbacks, A. Quarterback Matt Ryan completed 26 of 34 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He finished with a passer rating of 106.1. His 269 yards are the highest passing total the Cardinals defense has allowed all season. Ryan is the first player in NFL history to pass for 200-plus yards in 50 consecutive games. Ryan has also thrown at least one passing touchdown in 13 straight games. It was his eighth game this season with a passer rating of 100 or more. He threw passes to nine different receivers and completed passes to eight different receivers. His interception was on a pass that hit wide receiver Julio Jones in the hands and should have been caught late in the second quarter.   The Falcons offense put up 360 total yards against the Cardinals, who were ranked first in opponent’s total yardage coming into Week 12 (287.4). The offense also averaged 6.6 yards per pass. According to Pro Football Focus, Ryan was incredibly precise. The amazing part about that is 29 of 34 passes were thrown 9 yards or shorter. Only 5 of them were thrown 10 yards or longer downfield.

Running backs, C-plus. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman ran hard against a stout run defense.  Freeman rushed 16 times for 60 yards (3.8 per carry) and Coleman rushed eight times for 9 yards (1.1 per carry). Freeman had two rushing touchdowns and Coleman had one. Overall, the Falcons rushed for 116 yards on 30 carries (3.9 per carry). Taylor Gabriel had a carry for 27 yards. Coleman scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season in the third quarter on a two-yard run. He and Freeman are currently tied for the team lead with seven total touchdowns. The two also combined for 108 total yards on the day, which is the seventh time this season the two have combined for 100-plus yards. Coleman scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season in the third quarter on a two-yard run. Mohamed Sanu had a carry for 5 yards. Ryan had four scrambles for 15 yards. Freeman now has 23 touchdowns as a pro, which ties him T.J. Duckett for the second most touchdowns through a Falcons player first three seasons, only Gerald Riggs (26) had more. He also has 17 rushing touchdowns, which bumped him to 11th on the franchise list, tied with Dave Hampton.

Wide receivers/tight ends, B-minus.  Gabriel caught four of five targets for 75 yards and scored on two screen passes of 35 and 25 yards. Sanu caught all eight of his targets for 65 yards. All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones caught four of seven targets for 35 yards and had a crucial drop to stall a drive late in the second quarter. Justin Hardy tied a season-high with three catches for 47 yards including a spectacular catch along the sideline for a 27-yard gain. He also had three catches against Seattle. Gabriel had his fourth straight game with a touchdown and his first ever multi-touchdown game. He scored on 35-yard pass in the second quarter, and a 25-yard pass to put the Falcons ahead 31-13 in the fourth.

Offensive line, B-minus. The line was under siege with all of the aggressive blitzes. The unit held up for most of the day except for that series to start the third quarter. Ryan was sacked four times with one of them nullified by penalty. The unit regrouped and went on a 13-play, 77-yard touchdown drive on the subsequent possession. Ryan was sacked three times and hit six times. The line couldn’t open any holes for the running backs who had 24 carries for a sub-par 69 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, the starting offensive line unit for the Falcons were asked to pass protect 42 times. Three of the five starters went perfect by not allowing a single sack, hit or hurry. The three were Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre and Ryan Schraeder.

Defensive line, B. The defensive line was determined to make a good showing against the run after getting blown off the line of scrimmage by Philadelphia. Arizona running back David Johnson got off to a strong start, but was held to 58 yards rushing on 13 carries. The Cardinals had to abandon the run after the Falcons took a 24-13 lead in the third quarter. Grady Jarrett and Courtney Upshaw had three tackles each. Veteran Jonathan Babineaux had a big stop in the backfield. Brooks Reed had a great day rushing the passer. On just 25 pass rushing attempts, he was able to generate four total pressures: 1 sack and 3 QB Hurries. The four total pressures he earned are the most he's had in a single game this year.

Linebackers, B-minus: Philip Wheeler, LaRoy Reynolds and De'Vondre Campbell were the starters. Deion Jones (five tackles) and Campbell (four tackles) were solid against the run. Vic Beasley harassed Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer into an intentional grounding call.  Campbell was targeted by Palmer, but he came through with an interception and three pass breakups. Campbell had a tough matchup with Johnson. For the most part, he was up for the challenge. On five targets, Campbell allowed four receptions for 53 yards. The one incompletion was because of a nice pass breakup.

Defensive backs, B-minus. Jalen Collins, Robert Alford and Brian Poole were in position and didn’t give up any big plays against a fine wide receiver corps. Alford did get one shaky pass interference call. Poole was strong in run defense as he finished with five tackles. Poole also had a sack. Collins made his fourth NFL start and held up well. He had three passes defenses and pronounced that he’s ready to take over for Desmond Trufant, who set to have season-ending shoulder/pectoral surgery on Thursday.  Poole had a great day in coverage. He was in on 41 coverage snaps and on those snaps he allowed  four receptions on five targets for 29 yards. This was the fewest number of receiving yards allowed by any of the Falcons cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

Special teams, A. Punter Matt Wile had a fantastic NFL debut filling in for injured Falcons punter Matt Bosher, Wile averaged 58 yards gross on two punts and put all seven of his kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks against the Cardinals. Arizona had two punt returns for a total of 12 yards. “It was a ton of fun,” Wile said. “It felt pretty good. I was a little nervous before the game but once I was out there it felt comfortable. It felt right.” The Falcons signed Wile early last week as insurance in case Bosher couldn’t play after a hamstring injury forced him to leave the Nov. 13 game at Philadelphia. Wile was a four-year letter winner at the University of Michigan and last year spent time in camp with the Panthers and Cowboys. Wile’s longest punt against Arizona went 59 yards and, for a moment, it appeared it may have been too long. The Falcons had a fourth down at their 20-yard line when Wile sent a high, booming kick to return man Patrick Peterson at Arizona’s 21-yard line. Wile’s punt went several yards beyond the Falcons gunners, leaving Peterson lots of room to maneuver in the middle of the field, but Falcons defenders closed in and held Peterson to a six-yard gain.  “I thought I hit them pretty well overall,” Wile said. “I was lucky to have great coverage team on my punts, so that was nice. I thought I had a pretty decent game.

Coaching, A-minus. After a bumpy start, the defensive coaches put on their thinking caps and came up with an assortment of defenses that held the Cardinals to six points in the second half. The defense held one of the NFL’s leading rushers to only 58 yards on 13 carries. In the past 27 games, the defense has only allowed two 100-yard rushers. The defense has also recorded a sack in 10 straight games.  Offensively, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called a couple of well-times screen passes to Gabriel that went for touchdowns. The line quickly adjusted to the blitzes after the Cardinals had four sacks in one series to start the second half. The front office must be commended for having a quality punter like Matt Wile on speed dial. He had a great day. The Falcons tied their season-low for penalties with four. They also had just four against New Orleans in Game Three. The 23 yards penalized was a season-low. The Falcons loss 35 yards in the Saints game.

NEXT UP: The Falcons (7-4) will host the Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

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MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons keep getting better as they go

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Taylor Gabriel continues scoring streak in win over Cardinals

Coleman scores TD in return from injury

Falcons' offensive line 'stepped up to the task'

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5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Eagles

Ryan, offense slowed down to a crawl

Perkins stalls key drive with costly penalty

Defense gets blown of the line of scrimmage

Keanu Neal can expect fine but Falcons' biggest issue is injuries (Trufant and Tamme)

Falcons go into bye week wrong way -- beat up by Eagles

What Dan Quinn had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What Matt Ryan had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What the Falcons had to say after the loss to the Eagles

PHOTOS: Falcons fall to the Eagles

5 things we learned from the Falcons' rout of the Bucs

GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT

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Philip Rivers confounds Falcons with short passes: 'He picked us apart'

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MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons didn't win, but they made one guy believe (me)

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons got jobbed but did themselves proud

Matt Ryan's turnovers were costly

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Seattle slows down Falcons' running backs Freeman, Coleman

Ryan Schraeder, offensive line rebounds in second half

Julio Jones: 'It was just a missed call'

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What Matt Ryan had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

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What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

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GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

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JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.