Four self-inflicted plays doom the Cardinals against the Falcons
Self-inflicted wounds have haunted the Arizona Cardinals and their Super Bowl hopes all season long.
The mistakes that turned close games into big losses will only be considered signs of a below-average team, as long as that trend continues. It was the same theme Sunday in Arizona’s 38-19 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
For as many flubs as there have been this season, it’s already gone beyond playing the what-if game as the playoff hopes slip away from Bruce Arians’ team.
What if one drop hadn’t cost the Cardinals this game or the other? What would’ve happened if a missed field goal, a botched snap or a blown coverage hadn’t happened?
The answers seem irrelevant when games are continuously comprised of several such errors. In Week 12, Arizona fell to 4-6-1 with another collection of confounding miscues. Here are four that led to the loss in Atlanta.
D.J. Swearinger’s dropped pick
Safety D.J. Swearinger, who already had a first-half interception that gave Arizona a late field goal before halftime, nearly had his second pick of the game. With 5:31 left in the third quarter and Atlanta leading 17-13, Arizona’s safety converged on Matt Ryan’s second-down pass over the middle.
He couldn’t bring it in.
“D.J. read the route perfect,” Arians said. “We dropped a big interception right in the second drive (of the second half). D.J. catches that ball 100 times and he drops it (that time).”
Two plays later, Ryan scrambled for 11 yards and a first down at Arizona’s 16-yard line, and the Falcons would punch in a touchdown.
Speaking of drops …
Michael Floyd’s fourth-down drop
The Cardinals trailed 24-13 heading to the fourth quarter and found themselves in no man’s land — too deep for a field goal but in too desperate a spot to punt. At 4th-and-7 at the Falcons’ 40-yard line, Arizona kept the offense on the field.
Following a timeout, quarterback Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd in the chest after the receiver ran a quick out, but with Falcons defensive back Jalen Collins perhaps distracting him and in his face, Floyd dropped the catch.
After the game, Arians said the Cardinals had to wonder if they were putting players in position beyond their capabilities.
“I don’t think catching the ball is one of them,” he added. “Defensively, the same way.”
Calais Campbell’s false start
Arizona thought it had a stop on its own 43-yard line with two minutes gone in the fourth.
Trailing 24-13 with the Falcons punting, defensive end Calais Campbell jumped the snap-count and earned an offside penalty on 4th-and-5. It represented yet another defensive breakdown in a key situation.
“They definitely have a good scheme, a lot of good guys outside of Julio. Matt Ryan’s playing at an elite level,” former Falcons defensive lineman Corey Peters told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Paul Calvisi. “That’s no excuse. We got to find a way to play better.”
And that play set up …
Gabriel’s second touchdown
Taylor Gabriel on the short stuff today has been killing Arizona’s defense pic.twitter.com/6IULyM45eo
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 27, 2016
The Falcons’ Twitter account trolled the Cleveland Browns when reserve receiver Taylor Gabriel scored his second touchdown of the game off a similar screen pass play to his first.
Following Floyd’s drop, the touchdown helped Atlanta seal the game to go ahead 31-13.
“They made two good blocks on the perimeter,” Arians said of the play. “We did not get either two back inside like we wanted.”