The Cardinals were able to run, played terrific defense (including against the tight end!) and came out with a nice victory.
Go figure, huh? A solid running game provided Carson Palmer (still with a horrid early interception) more time and the results were good. Palmer only threw the ball 18 times, completing 13, for 172 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The fact that the Falcons had to respect the running game of the Cardinals meant they couldn't pin their ears back and bring pressure. Another major aspect that was previously missing was the speed that Andre Ellington provides.
With a faster back like Ellington, defensive ends have to respect the edge a bit more. Their responsibility to contain just isn't as great with Rashard Mendenhall as the starter. Ellington showed his jets on Sunday with his 80-yard touchdown run. Once he got to the outside, it was over.
Ellington finished the day with 15 rushes for 154 yards and a touchdown. Take away the 80-yard rush and he still finished with a very respectable 14 rushes for 74 yards. He also added in two catches out of the backfield.
If there's one thing head coach Bruce Arians needs to take away from this game, it's the importance of making the defense respect the speed of Ellington. I'm not going to start driving the bandwagon here and say he should start every game, but a good mix of between-the-tackle rushing with Mendenhall and the outside speed of Ellington would do wonders for the offense.
Another major bonus to the rushing attack is that it keeps Palmer upright. He was sacked three times, but only hit five times. Heck, even Kevin Kolb looked like a good quarterback when he was afforded the time to set and throw.
We can't go overboard and say the Cardinals are going to make the playoffs, but they should feel pretty good about themselves. Yes, the Falcons are awfully banged up. But, the Cardinals defended Tony Gonzalez well (3 catches for 26 yards) and held the Falcons rushing attack to just 27 yards.
In a nutshell, the Cardinals did to the Falcons what other teams have been doing to them. They made the Falcons one-dimensional, which meant they could go after the quarterback more often. They sacked Matt Ryan four times and knocked him down 11 times. As a team, they had 12 passes defensed, which was in large part because of the pressure on Ryan. Receivers simply didn't have the time to get separation and Ryan was forced to rush his throws.
The Cardinals head into their bye week 4-4 and feeling much better about themselves. There are still some major issues (especially when they face better offenses), but this was a great step in the right direction.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Cardinals for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the NBA site HoopsHabit.com .
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Arizona Cardinals
- Atlanta Falcons
- Carson Palmer
- the Falcons
- Andre Ellington