At what point in the “Next Man Up” mentality do you run out of men?
The Arizona Cardinals lost an ugly game to the Atlanta Falcons on the road Sunday, 29-18, and they did so after also losing three key players in the first half alone.
Running back Andre Ellington left the game with a hip injury, safety Tyrann Mathieu exited with a thumb injury and guard Paul Fanaika left with an ankle injury. All joined star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and starting quarterback Carson Palmer as mere observers of the Cardinals’ struggle to produce any sort of offense throughout the game.
The injuries only added to the dumpster full of poor events that occurred throughout the first half.
First, the Falcons’ Steven Johnson busted open a 55-yard run that led to a one-yard touchdown with 11:39 left in the first quarter.
Then the Cardinals kicked off to arguably the best punt returner in the game, Devin Hester. It was called back after Hester grabbed punter Drew Butler’s facemask before heading into the end zone, but Atlanta still put three points on the board.
Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton then threw his first pick of the game in his second series. The Cardinals defense would then try to shift the momentum after a pick-six by Rashad Johnson, but it was stifled once more when receiver Michael Floyd was stripped and the Falcons took over and ended the half up 20-10.
Arizona struggled the rest of the way, especially against the Atlanta ground game and star receiver Julio Jones, who had a career day against the Cardinals.
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant booted in Atlanta’s next four consecutive scores. Though the Cardinals finally broke a 10-quarter offensive scoring drought with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Stanton to Stepfan Taylor, it was too little too late for Arizona, who lost their second straight game and fell to 9-3.
What’d the Cardinals loss look like by the numbers?
Atlanta put up 500 yards of total offense against the Cardinals, including 358 yards in the air and 142 yards on the ground.
The rushing total breaks Arizona’s streak of 21 consecutive games without more than 100 rushing yards allowed from a player — Atlanta’s Steven Jackson had 101 yards off 18 carries and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
Arizona only racked up 329 total yards of offense against the Falcons. Stanton completed 24 of 39 attempts for 294 yards, a touchdown and an interception while Ellington’s absence hurt Arizona on the ground.
Backup Marion Grice only had 16 yards off five carries to contribute to the Cardinals’ total 35 rushing yards.
The Falcons have now won seven home games against the Arizona Cardinals — which was somewhat surprising today, as the crowd noise was notably “not a factor” to start the game.
ATL fan base disengaged. Crowd noise not going to be a problem for Cardinals today.
— Dan Bickley (@danbickley) November 30, 2014
One of the few bright spots in the loss, Johnson’s interception was his fourth in three games against Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Arizona also had another interception attempt by Jerraud Powers that looked promising but was ruled an incomplete pass upon review.
Atlanta’s Jones completely obliterated coverage by Arizona’s Patrick Peterson and had a career day of 10 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown.
Jones averaged 18.9 yards per catch and was targeted 12 times.
He was complemented by receiver Harry Douglas, who had nine receptions for 116 yards and averaged 12.9 yards per catch.
Taylor’s touchdown late in the fourth quarter was the first offensive touchdown by the Cardinals in 30 possessions and 11 quarters, dating back to the Nov. 16 victory over the Detroit Lions.
This is the second consecutive loss for Arizona, who are now 9-3 and face a tough series of team to close out the regular season.
Quarterback Drew Stanton has started in each of the three Cardinals losses and has thrown at least one interception in his last three games (five total).