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Big Red Recap: Cardinals defense no match for Falcons offense

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel dives for his second touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. (Associated Press)

And the hole the Arizona Cardinals are digging themselves only keeps getting deeper and deeper.

Coaches and players will you they’re still in the thick of the playoff race, and that’s true. Yet for many, fans and media alike, the Cardinals are just too far back, with the finish line closing, to be a factor.

And they may have just gotten lapped after losing in Atlanta, 38-19.

Matt Ryan passed for two touchdowns, while Devonta Freeman rushed for two touchdowns as the No. 1 scoring offense was too much for the Cardinals (4-6-1) to handle as they lost their second straight and third in four games overall.

The 38-points allowed marked a season-high.

It was a good start for the Cardinals, who scored on their opening possession for the first time all season. However, the Falcons (7-4) responded with points on three of their first drives to take a 17-10 lead late in the second quarter.

Back-to-back second-half touchdowns by the Falcons made it 31-13, the Cardinals’ largest deficit of the game.

Carson Palmer went 25-of-45 for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He was also intercepted once and sacked twice.

David Johnson accounted for 161 total yards, topping 100 receiving yards (103) for the first time in his career.

The Cardinals have now dropped eight straight in Atlanta.

THE GOOD

You couldn’t have asked for a better start from the Cardinals offense. Palmer completed all five of his pass attempts, twice finding Jermaine Gresham, the second time good for a one-yard touchdown, making it 7-0 Arizona at the 9:39 mark of the first quarter. Palmer threw for 65 yards on the drive, helping give the Cardinals their first points on an opening possession all season.

All Johnson needed was just about a quarter-and-a-half to hit 100 scrimmage yards for an 11th straight game to begin a season, extending his own franchise record. He joined Edgerrin James (2000 and 2005) as the only players in NFL history to post 100 scrimmage yards in each of the team’s first 11 games. Johnson had 49 rushing yards and 62 receiving yards for a total of 111.

In a single third-quarter defensive possession, the Cardinals sacked Ryan four times, though only three counted. Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu and Markus Golden each recorded their second, first and seventh sacks of the season, respectively. Calais Campbell also dropped Ryan, but his sack was negated by a penalty. By the way, Golden’s sack total is the second-most on the team.

THE BAD

Targeted a handful of times on the Falcons’ opening drive, Patrick Peterson gave up a 27-yard catch to Justin Hardy and was flagged for interference while covering Julio Jones on 3rd-and-goal from the Arizona 2; the latter of which handed Atlanta an automatic first down, and on the very next snap, Freeman rushed one yard for a touchdown tying the game at 7 at the 3:38 mark of the first quarter.

Four more penalties, including a second pass interference call on Peterson, were called on the Cardinals in the second quarter. There were also a pair of holding calls on the offensive line, plus an intentional grounding call on Palmer. By the way, the whistle on Peterson wiped out a Deone Bucannon interception on 3rd-and-15. And it should be mentioned that the Falcons were never flagged in the first half.

Twice on the Falcons’ third-quarter scoring drive they converted on third down, their first two conversions of the game after failing four times previous. There was a 3rd-and-2 and a 3rd-and-10; the latter of which Ryan scrambled for 11 yards to move the chains. Four plays later, Tevin Coleman rushed two yards for a touchdown extending Atlanta’s lead to double digits, 24-13, at the 2:56 mark of the quarter.

Two fourth-quarter plays explained why the Cardinals are where they are here in 2016. First, Michael Floyd dropped a fourth-down pass. Then, with the Falcons punting on 4th-and-5, Campbell jumped offsides, handing Ryan a fresh set of downs. He took advantage, throwing another wide receiver screen to Gabriel, who this time went 25 yards for a touchdown extending Atlanta’s lead to 31-13 at the 8:48 mark.

STAT OF THE GAME

38: The Falcons became the second team in as many weeks and the fourth overall this season to hit the 30-point mark on the Cardinals, which entered the game with the league’s 10th-best scoring defense (19.0).

HE SAID IT

“I thought we did a very poor job of answering after we scored of letting them score,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “Great defenses don’t do that. They don’t let other teams score after you score.”

NOTED

Kerwynn Williams took a first-quarter direct snap and handed off to Johnson, who rushed for 16 total yards

Larry Fitzgerald’s 17-yard first-quarter catch extended his streak with a reception to 190 consecutive games

Fitzgerald’s 10-yard second-quarter catch was the 1,095th of his career, fifth-most on the NFL’s all-time list

D.J. Swearinger’s second-quarter interception, his third of the season, was the Cardinals’ first in five games

John Brown exited the game in the third quarter and did not return; he was ruled out with a hamstring injury

The starting offensive line, left to right: D.J. Humphries, Mike Iupati, A.Q. Shipley, John Wetzel, Ulrick John

Among the Cardinals’ inactives included defensive tackles Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche and Ed Stinson

UP NEXT

After two straight road games, the Cardinals return home.

They host the Washington Redskins on Sunday, Dec. 4. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:25 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning five hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Cardinals won the last meeting in 2014 at University of Phoenix Stadium, 30-20, which snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series.

The Cardinals have not won back-to-back games against Washington since sweeping the season series in 1998.

The former NFC East rivals met twice a year from 1970-2001.

Overall, the Redskins lead 75-45-2 in the all-time series, dating back to 1932.

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