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Week 15 Game Recap: Arizona Cardinals 14, Atlanta Falcons 40


What you need to know

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals’ hot start against the Falcons devolved quickly into their typical offensive struggles centering on the offensive line being a glorified turnstile for pressure on Josh Rosen. The lack of weapons beyond Larry Fitzgerald did not help matters as Arizona was quickly down by multiple touchdowns and the second half turned into garbage time, which the Cardinals could not exploit for even token yards and a touchdown or two. Rosen was pulled for Mike Glennon in mop-up duty as the game was clearly loss by the mid-fourth quarter. David Johnson’s goal line touchdown and 68 receiving yards were small bright spots on an offensive lacking positive takeaways this week.

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta’s pass protection gave up consecutive third-down sacks that ended a pair of drives and then linebacker Deion Jones gave up consecutive big plays to David Johnson that led to a score. However, Jones caught a Vic Beasley tip of a Josh Rosen pass for a pick-six to tie the game. Tevin Coleman then earned 65 yards on a toss play up the right sideline to get Atlanta inside the Arizona 5, setting up a field goal and a three-point lead after Austin Hooper dropped a short pass at the goal line on third down. The defense took over from there, sacking Rosen on consecutive third downs and three times in as many series. Brian Poole led the way with a sack, a fumble recovery, and an interception in the first half. Ryan took advantage with a one-yard sneak for a score and a 21-yard go route to Jones against Patrick Peterson to earn a 19-point lead by the end of the half. Coleman put the game away in the middle of the third quarter with a 43-yard run that earned him a career-high in rushing after just 8 carries. Atlanta’s defense earned seven sacks in three and a half quarters – six on Rosen.

Arizona Cardinals

QB Josh Rosen, 52 offensive snaps, Pass: 13 - 22 - 132 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 8 - 0
Rosen and the Arizona offense got off to a strong start in Atlanta before a blowout ensued and they were soundly defeated. Rosen had a highlight throw to David Johnson for a long gain into the red zone, but the consistent deficiencies of the Arizona passing game emerged for the rest of the game. Rosen was pressured, especially on obvious passing downs, and third down sacks were commonplace. Rosen forced an interception to a contested Larry Fitzgerald, a tipped interception was returned for a touchdown, plus Rosen was stripped for a lost fumble in the pocket. Rosen is a classic pocket passer, yet the weekly trend has been Rosen being forced to move and extend plays due to pressure. Rosen was pulled by the mid-fourth quarter of the blowout and Mike Glennon threw for almost as many yards as Rosen in the closing minutes alone of garbage time.

RB David Johnson, 34 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 33 - 1, Rec: 3 - 68 - 0 (6 targets)
Despite the sound defeat at the hands of the Falcons, Johnson surpassed 100 total yards for the first time since Week 11 and logged his first touchdown in more than a month. Johnson caught Josh Rosen’s best pass of the game, a deep route into the red zone as Arizona was off to a fast start for once. Johnson picked up a third-and-long conversion with another red zone reception and churned a goal line carry for a touchdown. Johnson was limited to 11 carries, his fewest his Week 1, with the negative game script and the blowout result for the entire second half. Johnson’s receiving usage and efficiency will be needed against the Rams in Week 16.

RB Chase Edmonds, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 22 - 0, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 (2 targets)
Edmonds saw a season-high 10 touches in the blowout loss against Atlanta. Edmonds found a backside cut for his lone notable run but was stuffed on interior runs otherwise. Edmonds converted a third down with his best reception but would require a David Johnson injury to be a more than an ancillary option in Arizona’s struggling offense.

WR Larry Fitzgerald, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 82 - 0 (8 targets)
In the blowout loss to Atlanta Fitzgerald logged his second-highest yardage total of the season. Fitzgerald converted fourth-and-long on his best catch of the game, a stop route in tight coverage. Fitzgerald aggregated most of his production in the second half with the game clearly decided, including a 15-yard reception in the closing minutes of garbage time.

WR Trent Sherfield, 65 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 15 - 1 (5 targets)
In back-to-back games, Sherfield has emerged as the clear secondary receiver to Larry Fitzgerald with the absence of Christian Kirk. Sherfield found the end zone against Atlanta, the first of his career, in garbage time and had a touchdown opportunity on a sideline target earlier in the game. Sherfield dropped a slant target on the negative side for his performance, but the five targets and more than 90 yards over the past two games are promising signs for the undrafted rookie late in a lost Arizona season.

TE Ricky Seals-Jones, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 22 - 0 (8 targets)
Seals-Jones continued his futility against the Falcons, seeing a team-high eight targets translating into a mere 22 yards. Seals-Jones dropped a deep out route and his end zone target fell harmlessly to the ground as his long scoring opportunity. Seals-Jones has not scored since Week 3 and has failed to produce despite Arizona searching for ancillary pass-catchers with Christian Kirk out for the season.


Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 36 - 231 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 18 - 1
After a drop and a completion to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, respectively, Markus Golden sacked Ryan at the end of a seven-step drop on a first down. Ryan completed a third-down pass to Mohamed Sanu for 16 but an illegal shift nullified the conversion and Atlanta punted to end its first possession. He was sacked again in the next series on third down by Hassaan Reddick, throwing Tevin Coleman backwards, and forcing a second consecutive punt. Ryan hit Jones for 22 yards to get inside the Cardinals’ 10 after a Falcons’ fumble recovery. He rushed a throw when a flash of pressure crossed his face and delivered a bad ball to Smith two plays later, setting up a third and seven from the Arizona nine. Ryan finished the drive with a quarterback sneak after feeding Smith on a swing pass that got Atlanta to the one. Midway through the second quarter, Ryan got Atlanta inside the Cardinals’ 35 but later in the drive, he threw well behind Coleman on a third-down slant that forced a 33-yard field goal. Ryan got Julio Jones into Cardinals territory with a scramble-drill target up the left sideline. Ryan took a hit on the next play against a blitz, hitting Jones again up the same sideline with about 30 seconds in the half. He scrambled for 15 yards—his longest run of the season—on the next play, getting into field goal range. Ryan followed up with a 21-yard touchdown pass up the left sideline to Jones to extend the lead to 19. Ryan’s second touchdown was a garbage-time score to the end-line to a wide-open Justin Hardy.

RB Ito Smith, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 34 - 0, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (3 targets)
He earned three yards to the Cardinals’ 9 on his first carry in the second quarter. He earned a first down on a swing pass to the left flat two plays later. He spun inside a defender to reach the one, setting up a Ryan sneak for the touchdown. He earned five up the middle to reach the Cardinals’ 34 yard-line during the next series. Smith hopped over penetration up the middle and worked to left end for a few yards. He earned 16 halfway through the third quarter through a huge hole on the backside of the offensive line when Atlanta used Ben Garland as a tight end. Smith lost a few yards two plays later on a throwback screen that Arizona anticipated well. Smith earned six up left guard at the end of the third quarter.

RB Tevin Coleman, 34 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 145 - 1 (1 targets)
He was stuffed for no gain off left tackle to begin the second series. He got knocked out of the way by Hasaan Reddick on third down, giving up a sack that ended the series. Coleman took a toss to right end 65 yards to the Arizona 7, stiff-arming a safety in the open field to begin Atlanta’s third drive. He earned eight around right end on another toss two series later. On the next play, Chandler Jones stuffed Coleman on an attempt off left guard, setting up a third and six. Ryan was well behind Coleman later in the drive on a slant that forced a 33-yard field goal. He was wrapped early on a downhill cut on second and three for a gain of two. Atlanta tried another toss to begin the second half and Arizona cut him off for a loss of one. Coleman scored on a 43-yard run late in the third quarter, breaking two bad tackle attempts. He made a nice jump cut to the middle of the crease to set up his foray into the open field. Coleman then took the ball 44 yards up the middle for another touchdown to begin the fourth quarter, but Russell Gage committed an illegal block in the back in the secondary.

WR Julio Jones, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 82 - 1 (8 targets)
The opening play was a fade route to Jones on Patrick Peterson that went through Jones’ hands. Peterson only faced Jones when Arizona played man coverage, which resulted in giving Ryan and the Falcons an easy tell. Arizona stuffed Jones on a fake toss to Coleman and shovel pass to the receiver inside the five, setting up a third and goal. Jones earned 22 yards up the seam after a fumble recovery to reach the Arizona 12. Jones earned 17 yards on a screen play to the left with a fake toss to the right that set up the play nicely. He dropped a shallow route from trips right on third and one, thanks to a good wrap by Tre Boston playing trail position. This led to a punt. Jones earned two routes at the left sideline late in the half against Peterson and then beat the corner up the left sideline for a 21-yard score. He left the field with 0:13 in the half to get extra attention in the training room due to a rib injury from the diving catch, and didn’t play during the first few plays of the initial drive in the second half. He told the trainers on the sideline that he wants to play and returned to the field when Atlanta reached the Arizona 50. However, the coaches benched him by quarter’s end after Tevin Coleman’s touchdown gave Atlanta a significant lead.

WR Calvin Ridley, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 42 - 0 (7 targets)
He earned nine yards on a hook route for to set up a short gain for a first down on a quarterback sneak by Ryan. A few plays later, he earned a few years on a short route, slipping to the ground while trying to turn up the field. He earned a short target at the right sideline to convert a first down in the middle of the second quarter. He earned a short out for seven yards late in the half to kick off a drive deep in Atlanta’s own territory. Ridley dropped a third-down crossing route on 3rd and 15 to begin the second half, leading to a punt.

WR Mohamed Sanu, 60 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (6 targets)
He earned a first down from the slot on a 16-yard completion on a break to the flat against zone but an illegal shift nullified the play. David Amerson hit his head on Sanu’s shoulder during the play and was assisted off the field. Sanu dropped a route in the flat early in the second half on a play after Ryan underthrew a target to the receiver with pressure in his face. He earned his second catch at the end of the third quarter on a comeback. H3 earned close to 20 yards over the middle on a slant to get Atlanta into the red zone early in the fourth quarter.

WR Justin Hardy, 10 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 29 - 1 (3 targets)
He earned 18 up the left sideline on a play-action throwback in the middle of the second quarter. He broke through a reach to his shoulder late in the third quarter on a slot screen pass at the line of scrimmage for a first-down conversion to get Atlanta near the Falcons’ 40. Hardy scored on a wide-open post to the end line with a garbage-time touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

WR Russell Gage, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 33 - 0 (4 targets)
Dropped a short route to the flat in the red zone midway through the second quarter. He earned 10 yards up the seam and then another 19 to midfield on the following target off play-action. His biggest play of the day was an illegal block in the back that nullified Tevin Coleman’s touchdown run of 43 yards early in the fourth quarter.

WR Marvin Hall, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (3 targets)
The Cardinals cut off Hall on a crossing route during the first drive. In the middle of the second quarter, he turned up the sideline for a first down on a short pass to the left side. Ryan was high of target on a route intended for Hall to begin the fourth quarter and Tre Boston cut off the target as well.

TE Austin Hooper, 34 offensive snaps (1 targets)
He dropped a third-and-goal whip route against bracket coverage in the end zone, forcing a field goal for Matt Bryant. It was the extent of his action as a receiving during meaningful competition.