Arizona’s defense is making a habit out of intercepting Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. In the two games played over the past two seasons they have pilfered a total of nine passes. In Sunday’s most recent matchup, the opportunists recorded four takeaways that helped propel the Cardinals to a 27-13 victory.
The players and Head Coach Bruce Arians credited the win with putting on pads Monday for a training camp-like practice. “This game was won on Monday when I asked the team to come out in pads and we had a training camp practice.,” said Arians. “We had the best practice we had all year. It set the tempo for this game.”
Arizona set the tempo of pressuring Ryan in the same manner. “Our game plan was to put pressure on him,” said defensive tackle Calais Campbell. “Hit him early and often and we did that.” Ryan was sacked twice for a loss of 18 yards. The Cardinals defense held the Falcons rushing game to 10 yards on 10 carries in the first half.
All of the significant rushing yards in the first half belonged to the Cardinals Andre Ellington. The rookie out of Clemson rushed for 124 yards in the half gaining 80 of them on a touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Ellington’s romp gave the Cardinals its second touchdown of the quarter and a 14-6 lead.
Atlanta’s woes in the redzone continued to plague the offense as it has all season long. Twice the Falcons settled for field goals inside the 15 yard line in the half.
Carson Palmer fired his second touchdown pass of the game, a 15 yarder to Michael Floyd inside the two-minute warning.
After the half the Cardinals defense stepped up their game another notch garnering all four interceptions in the final 30 minutes. Linebacker Daryl Washington started it off stepping in front of a pass intended for tight end Chase Coffman at the Atlanta 30 yard line. On the very next defensive stand, Rod Johnson snagged another pick. This one a deep ball intended for Darius Johnson.
Some things are just contagious. On the Falcons next possession, Ryan tested the Cardinals and fate again finding Arizona rookie Tyrann Mathieu at the 47 yard line instead of Drew Davis.
As with the first two picks, the Cardinals Jay Feely converted the takeaway into a field goal.
Atlanta attempted to double up on their late good fortune and draw within 7 late in the fourth. After Drew Davis’ 4 yard touchdown reception, Matt Bosher kicked and recovered an onside kick. The tactic came up short with Johnson’s second interception of Ryan in the game.
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