Cardinals happy to reap good luck in win over Falcons
GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s funny what happens when a little positive momentum on the football field coincides with a little luck.
Throughout the Arizona Cardinals’ 34-33 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at State Farm Stadium, it could be argued the home team made that good luck for itself.
“I feel like today we had a couple things go our way,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “The Damiere catch, the Trent catch, obviously the extra point (miss by Atlanta). It’s nice to finally have it kind of bounce our way.”
Those three plays Fitzgerald referenced — plus one other — went in Arizona’s favor on Sunday night, reasons involving the officials and more.
The Cardinals, however, put themselves in position to reap the benefits of iffy calls and opponent mistakes.
Sherfield’s early jump-ball
With 7:19 to go in the first quarter, the Cardinals trailed 7-0 as their first offensive possession began.
They quickly faced a 3rd-and-10 on their side of the field. Quarterback Kyler Murray’s deep ball down the left sideline was a tad short but caught by Trent Sherfield, despite a strong contest, at Atlanta 28-yard line. It was a 38-yard gain.
While Sherfield only got one leg down inbounds, officials determined his lower leg made enough contact with the ground enough to warrant it being a catch.
The reception came on the only target toward Sherfield all game, and it led to a field goal pulling Arizona within 7-3.
On Arizona’s second possession of the game, speedy wideout Damiere Byrd — fresh off a hamstring injury — ran a deep post route and got on top of two deep safeties.
Murray connected with him perfectly in stride for a 58-yard gain, but as Byrd fell at the 1-yard line, he lost control of the ball. His body rolled on top of Falcons defender Isaiah Oliver, who was making the tackle, and he dropped the ball into the end zone.
Atlanta picked up the loose ball, but the whistles blew the play dead, leading Falcons coach Dan Quinn to throw a challenge flag.
The ruling stood as referees, we could guess, thought Byrd’s left elbow hit the turf before he lost the ball.
“That was a fumble,” Atlanta receiver Calvin Ridley said after the game.
And Cardinals players and coaches didn’t disagree.
“I definitely got lucky on it,” Byrd said. “Luckily, him ruling me down and not letting that play continue in the moment, that really helped out.”
The play stood and now is Byrd’s longest reception of his career.
Added Fitzgerald of the play: “I had my helmet off and I was getting some water. I sat down already, was … seeing what we were going to do next series, honestly. They haven’t been going our way like that. It was nice to have that.”
Bryant’s missed extra point
The Falcons rallied from down 27-10 once Arizona scored on the opening drive of the second half.
They tied the game at 27-all with 11 minutes left in the game before the Cardinals scored once more with 5:12 to play. But it took Atlanta seven plays and just more than three minutes for the Falcons to find the end zone after churning out 75 yards.
That’s when Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant missed the extra point, giving Arizona a chance to burn the final 1:53 off the clock without needing to score any more points.
Kyler’s first down
The final drive for the Cardinals wasn’t without a nervous sequence.
Atlanta used two timeouts and needed a stop on 3rd-and-5 — Arizona had only burned eight seconds of the 1:53 remaining in the game. That’s when Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury called a designed run play for Murray that had passing options in the flats.
Instead, Murray took off outside the right tackle, asking for a tight end downfield to block for him. Forced out of bounds, Murray appeared short of the first down, yet the referees rule on the field and after a replay review that he’d made the marker.
“Looking at it now, I probably should’ve stuck the ball out, but it’s a good learning lesson for me,” Murray said. “I will make sure I get it next time.”
Kingsbury believed the the angle made it tough to overturn, adding that he knew it was close.