Report card: Falcons’ grades for ugly win over Cardinals

Here are the Falcons’ grades for the 23-19 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

F – Quarterbacks: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a woeful day with five interceptions. He had thrown three interceptions just twice before in 71 regular-season NFL games. He had three earlier this season against Oakland on Oct. 14. He had three against New Orleans on Nov. 2, 2009 in a 35-27 loss. Ryan finished with a passer rating of 40.9, his lowest mark since the second game of his rookie season when he had a 29.6 against Tampa Bay on Sept. 14, 2008.

C – Running backs: Michael Turner had 15 rushes for 46 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run. Overall, the Falcons had 24 carries for 48 yards as they struggled to run the ball again. Jacquizz Rodgers had five carries for 16 yards. However, they were able to hammer out enough yards to help run out the clock in the fourth quarter. Turner’s touchdown run was his fifth and the 55th with the Falcons. He’s the team’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and has posted 56 total touchdowns (55 rushing and one receiving) with the Falcons. On Sunday, he tied wide receiver Andre Rison for second place on the franchise’s all-time touchdowns list. He trails wide receiver Terance Mathis (57) by one score for a share of the record.

B – Receivers: With Julio Jones clearly slowed by his right ankle injury, Roddy White picked up the slack with eight catches for 123 yards. Harry Douglas chipped in with five catches for 48 yards and Rodgers had five catches for 35 yards. On the season, White has 62 catches for 946 yards with six touchdowns. He needs 54 yards to record his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season.

B – Offensive line: The line was very strong in pass protection, but did have a few breakdowns against Arizona’s relentless blitz package. Ryan was sacked just once on 46 drop backs. The Cardinals had five quarterback hits. The run game continued to struggle as the running backs both averaged under 4 yards per carry. Turner averaged 3.1 yards per carry and Rodgers averaged 3.2 yards per carry.

A – Defensive line: Defensive end/tackle Jonathan Babineaux had a heads-up play on John Abraham’s sack-stripe of Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley. His touchdown was key to the victory. Also, Babineaux was the main beneficiary of the departed Ray Edwards’ snaps. He played defensive end in the base 4-3 defense, while Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi also received snaps. Lawrence Sidbury was one of three players not to see any action in the game. (Backup quarterback Luke McCown and recently signed wide receiver Tim Toone did not play.) Abraham had two sacks to give him nine for the season and 121 over his career. He is the NFL’s active sack leader and is one of just 15 players in the NFL to record 120-or-more career sacks.

C – Linebackers: The second level is expected to stop any runs that get by the defensive lineman. This unit let out runs of 40 and 52 yards to the LaRod Stephens-Howling (22 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown). The 5-foot-7, 185-pounder has some speed. Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas had four tackles. Mike Peterson had three. Nicholas also dropped Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley for a 14-yard sack when he ran over the top of fullback Anthony Sherman. “There were some big plays in the ball game,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I thought the sack by Stephen Nicholas, basically to get them out of field-goal range was one the turning points in that ball game.”

B – Defensive backs: Robert McClain filled in well at left cornerback with Asante Samuel going down with a right shoulder injury. McClain led the team in tackles with seven. Christopher Owens and Dominique Franks came on to play in the nickel and dime packages. Safety Thomas DeCoud appeared to hesitate on Howling’s 40-yard run instead of blowing up the ball carry with a big hit. With the ineffective Arizona quarterback play, the unit basically had the night off in pass coverage. The Falcons held Arizona to 13 percent third down conversion rate (2 of 16).

B – Specials teams: Franks broke loose for a 28-yard return in the third quarter. It was his longest return of the season. “The guys on the outside picked up their blocks and gave me a chance to get started,” Franks said. “That was the biggest key. We wanted to make a big play in the return game and we made one in the kickoff and the punt return game.” Rodgers had a 30-yard kickoff return. Bryant made all three of his attempts and has made 25 of 28 this season, including the last eight in a row. Bosher averaged 47 net yards on four punts. He placed two down inside the 20. Bryant moved past kicker Norm Johnson for sole possession of fourth place in the team’s record book for made field goals. Bryant has made 87 field goals since joining the club in 2009. Johnson (1991-94) made 84.

A-plus – Coaching: There is some genius in the fact that the Falcons were able to win when so much went wrong. From coach Mike Smith’s bad challenge flag toss to Matt Ryan’s uncharacteristic five interceptions, nothing seemed to work. Take the win and move on.

NEXT UP: The Falcons (9-1) face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in an NFC South showdown. With six games to play, the Falcons have a three-game lead over the Buccaneers and a four-game game lead over the Saints (5-5). The Panthers, who are 2-8, are out of the title race. A win over the Bucs and the Falcons would take a four-game lead with five to play.

Struggling Falcons survive turnovers, Cardinals in 23-19 victory

Falcons coach Mike Smith admits to challenge flag blunder

Abraham, Babineaux make heads up play to score much-needed touchdown

Falcons quoteboard after 23-19 win over the Cardinals

Matt Ryan discusses his five interceptions

Video: Falcons will try to regroup against the Cardinals, who have loss 5 in a row

Julio Jones held out of practice with an ankle injury

LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk weigh-in on Falcons’ sub-par run game

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter on struggling run game: ‘Mike Turner . . . had no chance’

COACHES ALL 22 FILM REVIEW: 6 key plays in the 31-27 loss to the Saints
Falcons pull out 19-13 victory over Cowboys to improve to 8-0

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107 comments Add your comment

Sly Boarders

November 19th, 2012
6:33 am

This win was like having to go to the bathroom (not #1) right after taking a shower. You’re still clean, but you feel horrible about it.

Hope Weatherspoon and Jones get well soon.


Me Too

November 19th, 2012
6:35 am

A-plus – Coaching my @SS!!


Give kudos to Mike Nolan but F to all others. How could a coaching staff so utterly fail to prepare a team for this game.

Mr. Panic Button

November 19th, 2012
6:36 am

A+ for coaching? No way! They get a fat D. Coaching is the reason many of the plays stalled. Coaching did nothing to move Ryan out of the pocket when passes were being batted down left and right. Can we get more playmakers on the field with Julio still injured? Play calling has been very conservative lately. What’s the insistence on running Turner? He’s done. Jacquizz and Snelling need the majority of carries. Smitty is never going anywhere with his conservative mindset. And how did he not know a turn over is automatically reviewed? He’s real bright I tell ya.

F for Ryan is appropriate. He still reverts to playing like a rookie whenever he has pressure in his face. This is Big Boy football Matt, man up. You’re going to meet defenses like this in the playoffs (if you make it there).


November 19th, 2012
6:37 am

lets just forget about this and move on. we have three divisional games in a row coming up then giants lions and finish with the bucs again. lets finish strong and lock up home field for the playoffs. this is still our year!

Whadda Ya Know?

November 19th, 2012
6:38 am

Me Too, exactly! They are responsible for the lack of creativity and reverting back to Smitty/Mularkey ball.

Whadda Ya Know?

November 19th, 2012
6:45 am

robertussen, how can we forget about this? It’s the HC that is going to hold this team back. Arthur and Dimitroff needs to have a sit down with him TODAY and tell him to let the coordinators call the game. He’s there to motivate his team…that’s it. I’m so tired of seeing that slow Turner until it’s not funny. Ryan staring down receivers like a rookie. Cardinals picked up on something about his tendencies in 2008 and they still see it in 2012. He has improved but he still doesn’t do the little things. Also, why are there no double-moves from our receiving corps? When you have aggressive man to man defenses and can’t shake them you need to go to the double move to burn them a few times. We have too much speed on the outside.

The Real Falcon

November 19th, 2012
6:51 am

An OL that id woeful in the running game can not receive a B. Just protecting the QB is not their only job. The highest score available is a C-.

The Real Falcon

November 19th, 2012
6:53 am

Double moves require an OL that give the QB time to wait for the move to occur. Again not with this OL. Also Turner cannot run where there are no holes. What game are you watching?

Whadda Ya Know?

November 19th, 2012
7:00 am

The Real Falcon, I’m watching the same one you are. Turner couldn’t get to the hold even if it was open. He’s the slowest RB in the league. Ryan has time, he just goes into premature release of the ball when he still has protection. You’re the one that needs to watch the games HOMER.

Whadda Ya Know?

November 19th, 2012
7:08 am

“hole” you know what I mean. As in he can’t find one.


November 19th, 2012
7:24 am

“One and Done”, coming your way soon.


November 19th, 2012
7:30 am

This team plays down to the level of their competition and play horrible when favored.

Mike Franklin

November 19th, 2012
7:54 am

At the end of the day, a win is a win in this league. No media-based style point tyranny here.

That said, the schedule doesn’t get any easier and another performance like this and it may not come out in our favor.

Big Daddy

November 19th, 2012
7:56 am

First, let me say, I am really happy we were able to pull a win out of that game. That said, our offensive line did a decent job of protecting in pass protection but not very good in run blocking. Too many times there was appeared to be a lack of pulling guards, tight ends in motion, etc to allow the running back to get into the secondary. The blocking setup did not account for blitzers too often which resulted in pressured throws. Something that Matt does not do well.

Harry Douglas really stepped up when needed and the secondary did a good job in coverage. I hope this gets ironed out in this week’s practices or we are going to get our helmets handed to us in Tampa.


November 19th, 2012
7:57 am

The o-line is still a disaster. Holes for the backs were almost nonexistant. These folks lay
all the blame on Turner for the poor running game. But did you see Snelling or Quizz gain
a whole lot of yards. I did’nt. Matt Ryan was shaken by the rush the Cards put on. I believe
Matt does get nervous when pressure is put on him.
Now the defense, too many big plays allowed. When they come up against a pretty good
team It will be Katy barred the outhouse door. This team can’t get by on luck forever.

But of course I ‘m glad they’ve won nine games and hope beyond hope they win more.


November 19th, 2012
7:58 am

I get as frustrated as anyone, but slow down, take a deep breath. The “almighty” Texans needed OT to win at home against a terrible Jacksonville team; Tampa should have lost to Carolina; it happens to good teams every week.

We all know that Falcons are still a little short when it comes to real difference makers and 2 of their best spent most of the game on the sideline. Every team has to deal with injuries, but this is a much different Falcon team when “Spoon” and Julio are full speed.

You can’t win playoff games in November so lets just hope Falcons are at full strength when it counts.


November 19th, 2012
8:04 am

Heres two excerpts from a guy making his living writing:’John Abraham’s sack-stripe of Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley.’ Whats a stripe? Oh,you mean a STRIP.

‘ This unit let out runs of 40 and 52 yards to the LaRod Stephens-Howling (22 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown). The 5-foot-7, 185-pounder has some speed.’ The La Rod Stephens-Howling? How about just plain ol LaRod?

Far be it from me to correct a PRO…


Rick in Macon

November 19th, 2012
8:11 am

We must’ve seen two different games…the offensive line was horrible. Sam Baker was pitiful again and there was pressure on Ryan the entire game…this led to a number of the interceptions. Dunta Robinson once again showed he was totally worthless…he got beat again on a pass that went for 20 or 30 yards and missed several tackles. All in all, this is a team waiting to implode.


November 19th, 2012
8:12 am

Two things:
1) Ryan is throwing behind his receivers, allowing defensive backs to make a play. It happened twice in the endzone against NO, once to Gonzalez and once to White. He did it again on the pass to White that was intercepted to open the game.
2) Lots of talk about Turner and the number of reps. I think we are all overlooking something. Turner was effective when running behind a lead blocker. Why not line up Babineaux or Bierman at Fullback and let one of them lead the way.


November 19th, 2012
8:13 am

The ZB scheme that the OLine is using is holding up well for pass protection, but not for the run game. In the past we used a Power/Man to Man Scheme in the run game and it worked very well. The OLine is trying to open holes, just havent happened yet. Oakland has the same issue with McFadden, since they have changed over to a ZB scheme. His numbers are down, and its not because he is old or slow. I do know, that run game has to materialize at some point.

Fan since 66

November 19th, 2012
8:18 am

@MTGUMMIBEAR…agree completely. I was as frustrated as anyone else during the game. Saw some glaring faults, which will hurt us badly in the next couple of games, if they’re not corrected. However…we DID win! Ugly only counts in Ice Dancing, and though parts of yesterday looked like our players were playing on ice, it’s still one in the win column. Find it funny that Franks is getting props for a 28 yard return. Unless I’m misreading the stats, that’s the only return for him this year. What about the other 15 fair catches he has made this year? And the times he fc’s on the 5, but lets it bounce on the 25? I thought I knew a little about football, but guess I’m missing something. Why is he still returning punts for us? Somebody help me, please!
Hope next week is a pick me up game! Go Falcons!

Buddy Landel

November 19th, 2012
8:30 am

….yet, despite playing a horrible game, Atlanta won. Matt Ryan can’t look and worse, and the team won. Move on.


November 19th, 2012
8:33 am

I’m still excited to be 9 and 1, and in the mix for post season but someting definitely looks off with the team. Where’s the creativity in schemes that we were seeing earlier this season. I agree with some of the posts here about how we seem to be going back to conservative ball all of a sudden.

Answer This

November 19th, 2012
8:43 am

@ Sly Boarders
“This win was like having to go to the bathroom (not #1) right after taking a shower. You’re still clean, but you feel horrible about it.”


Ugly win but I guess we cant ge the prom queen every night? Got to date the fat chick every once in a while! It makes you better, and it show you are human!

Answer This

November 19th, 2012
8:44 am

@ Sly Boarders
“This win was like having to go to the bathroom (not #1) right after taking a shower. You’re still clean, but you feel horrible about it.”


Ugly win but I guess we cant get the prom queen every night? Got to date the fat chick every once in a while! It makes you better, and it show you are human!


November 19th, 2012
8:47 am

Coaching was an A+? What game were you watching?

My grades after Falcons ugly win

November 19th, 2012
8:51 am

DOL – F – More spelling errors. You’re a paid journalist. You should not have spelling errors in every blog.

What is a sack stripe?

The Big Fat Blogger

November 19th, 2012
8:52 am

I agree with most of the posts on here, I (too) am excited that we managed to win this game, but at the same time, as said several times this year, we will get our a$$ kicked in the playoffs if we:

A) Don’t figure out how to stop the run
B) Don’t figure out how to run the ball ourselves
C) Don’t Create any pass rush (outside of John Abraham)
D) Don’t do better on special teams (Franks, I’m looking in your direction when I say this….)


November 19th, 2012
9:07 am

Abraham is the only playmaker we have on Defense. The guy is incredible and this team owes a number of games to him. He always seems to come up with a huge play when we need it most. How good could this D be if we could ever get another compliment to that guy on the other side.


November 19th, 2012
9:11 am

Ok, we’re 9-1. We are in position to once again, gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs and get a bye week as well. Yesterdays debacle is over. We KNOW there will not be another game this year where we turn the ball over 6 times and Ryan throws 5 interceptions. It is now up to the coaching staff to prepare us for the games ahead, try to minimize the damage that can be inflicted on us by our flaws both offensively and defensively…..and to maximize the damage we can cause on our opponents by using our strengths to our advantage! Play calling must improve! We cannot continue to be predictable. We need to expand our play calling to include more than just the basics. I’m not saying load up on “trick” plays, but how about some pitchouts, screens, bootlegs, end-a-arounds, etc??? We need more yardage on first down! We get way too many 2nd and 8’s that turn into 3rd and long! In conclusion? Our coaching staff has to STOP smoking dope…..and come up with something that works!!!

The Falconer

November 19th, 2012
9:12 am

The Falcons 9-1 record is not an accurate portray of this team’s ability. They’ve only played 1 team with a record above .500. As a Falcons fan I feel that the NFL should not be allowed to hand out such weak schedules. Every team should have a balanced schedule. It just sets fans up for playoff disappointment. The Falcons are only playing 3 teams this year that had above .500 records LAST season when the schedule was made. That’s HORRIBLE! They are still only the 4th, 5th, or 6th best team in the league. NE, Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, and GB will all be very tough to beat in the playoffs for this Falcons team. Lets see how the Falcons finish out the season against NO, TB, and NY, and that will be a better indicator of where we’re at. But I am proud that his team finds ways to win despite not playing their best. Its a total team effort. GO FALCONS!

Big Daddy

November 19th, 2012
9:26 am

@MG3, I can’t agree with you that Abraham is the only playmaker. Babs, William Moore and especially Kroy Biermann have been exceptional in the last several games and A. Samuel has made a couple of critical interceptions. Most of the times the runs have been made on the opposite side of the line where Abraham and Biermann have lined up. They have defended well against the pass.

Whadda Ya Know?

November 19th, 2012
9:32 am

Big Daddy, I can agree with you on Babs and Biermann, but Willie Mo and Samuel have been very inconsistent this year. Now Samuel has hurt his wittle arm and can’t play. Willie Mo is not the banger he once was and needs to learn to wrap up players instead of hitting with his shoulder and trying to strip every ball. We have some sorry safeties. Nothing is constant with these guys. In fact, the defense hasn’t been constant all year. Play disciplined ball and wrap up and tacklet the opponent. They get blown off the ball and are always out of place (LBs caught up in the line with OLmen).


November 19th, 2012
9:37 am

Pathetic and embarassing….

We’re done.


November 19th, 2012
9:39 am

Congratulations to the Falcons for pulling this one out! It was impressive to see that they never got down in the face of adversity. The whole team kept their head in the game and kept pitching all the way through. In the end, it proved to be successful and earned them a win. The NFL is a little different than high school or college football in that there are top notch professionals on both teams every week. There is no such thing as a bad team although some teams end up with a losing record and some teams end up with a winning record. The trick is WINNING and that is not easy. Our Falcons found a way to win another one. I give credit to Nolan and the defense for keeping this one within reach after six turnovers. They still need to improve in tackling but they NEVER quit. Even Matt Ryan who was having a terrible day seemed to put the bad plays behind him and keep the pressure on for the whole game.

9-1 is looking pretty sweet! What a season! I know that our great coaches are learning from this team’s performance and with continued advancement on tackling and O-Line blocking they will have the domination that is needed. GO FALCONS! YOU ARE RISING UP!


November 19th, 2012
9:41 am

First of all, I’m satisfied with an “ugly” win over any loss……any day! 9-1 looks a lot better thatn 8-2. Ugly wins build character, pretty wins build facades.

Now to drill down on the concerns:

1. QB – Matt Ryan needs to minimize the turnovers against tough defenses.
2. QB – Matt Ryan needs to find a better way to score in the red zone.
3. DL – Obviously need a pass rusher other than Abraham.
4. Coaching – Koeter needs a better scheme for his RBs.
5. Coaching – What happened to the ellaborate blitz schemes?


November 19th, 2012
9:47 am

Go Bucks! Beat the fal can’ts!!!

D man

November 19th, 2012
9:52 am

DLed – pretty harsh rating for Matty don’t you think? I’de give him a C- based on the facts that several of the interceptions were tipped passes and hit while throwing. He did continue to lead his team and managed some key drives in the win with a 301 passing yard day.

Also, we are so good this year that we can turn the ball over 6 times and still win… :)

Mike is Back

November 19th, 2012
9:53 am

Dled, I’ll take the bad one alone with the good one…JUST WIN BABY…after all…it’s adversity that prepares you for the playoff…not easy win…against lesser opponent.

MS might want to get the behemoth some snaps @ LT…just in case he is thrust into action due to injury…better to get him out there, and see what ya got…then to have to throw in the fire…because Baker performance of late…maybe the back is starting to bother him again…just saying.

We can count on teams coming after Matt the rest of the season…the ICE MAN is clearly a different QB when he is under duress…heck, so are the rest of the QBs. The thing that puzzles me is that…Matt has the foot speed to escape the pocket…AND MAKE FIRST DOWNS…when the pocket starts to collapse…I just think he’s become a little pass happy.


RISE UP BIRDS…BEAT THEM BUCS…LET’S GO…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

D man

November 19th, 2012
9:55 am

neeS (formally known as Seen) – its Bucs, not Bucks. We’re playing Pirates, not deer. And it’s FalCans… :)


November 19th, 2012
9:56 am

Matt Ryan, “good company to be in”? It’s not about you, it’s about the team that surrounds you. Bart’s ‘67 team won the SB and that’s not done without a good defense and supporting cast. 5 interceptions is bad company to be in.

You’ve gotten overconfident and sloppy the past 2 games. That first tipped pass intercept was on RW, but those tipped at the line are on you. Glad you recognized it and look foreward to your continued success!

Coaches A+ ? really?


November 19th, 2012
10:06 am

D man: I call the fal can’ts: the fal can’ts; and the bucks: the bucks. There is no admiration lost between me and the fal can’ts and/or the bucks. buck fans get really annoyed being called the bucks, perhaps you’re a closet bucks fan! (Let me guess, only when the bucks are playing your team’s primary rival.)



November 19th, 2012
10:09 am


Falcon James

November 19th, 2012
10:55 am

An A+ for Coaching? That would mean they had a perfect or near perfect game! Did you see Mike Smith throw the Challenge Flag to stop a drive and effectively turn the ball over himself? That is not a perfect game. I blame that all the entire coaching staff.

Other than that- grades are on the money.

Falcon 3107

November 19th, 2012
11:03 am

I think the OL was terrible Matt was running for his life the whole game. He has proven if he has time he’s one of the best. We still don’t have a decent pass rush. If JJ wants to be an elite receiver he needs to get and stay healthy.

Big Crimson 75

November 19th, 2012
11:08 am

Mike Smith doesn’t get an A+ yesterday!!
I understand the win is a win argument, however the Falcons looked woeful yesterday.
Nolan saved Smitty.
2 guys named John Skelton & Chad Lindsay helped tremendously!!


November 19th, 2012
11:21 am

November 19th, 2012
10:06 am

Closet Bucs fan? …………….heck no, we openly pull for them every time they play ya’lll


November 19th, 2012
11:22 am


Falcon James

November 19th, 2012
11:26 am

Just curious here… many people rolled they eyes and were not surprised by the result each and every time Turner was handed the ball. I would love to see a Stat on how many of Turners carries this year went for 1 yard or less. I know we can’t pass every single play, but to me, handing the ball to Turner is a waste of a play.


November 19th, 2012
11:42 am

LOL @ Sky Boarders …

why is everything in BOLD?!?!?

DOL …. on the coaching grades …. Nolan busted the curve, Koetter, I guess, musters a ‘C’ (if Matty got an ‘F’) and Coach Smith was peeking at somebody’s paper during the test.

Good thing there is no BCS for the NFL. We would have dropped in the polls due to style points. HOU almost got snuck from behind by JAX.

Also, we need you to get on TV and holla at ya boy on Mike & Mike (ESPN). Jets get all the talk when they are draggin @ss in the AFC. Sad state of affairs.