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Atlanta Falcons: Five Things We Learned in Week 8 vs. Arizona Cardinals

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Atlanta Falcons: Five Things We Learned in Week 8 vs. Arizona Cardinals

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Matt Ryan at training camp, 2013
COMMENTARY | With playoff hopes as dry as the Arizona desert air, the Atlanta Falcons suffered another setback losing their fifth in seven games this season. Despite sparking a brief fourth-quarter comeback, they were defeated by the Arizona Cardinals, 27-13.

In other news, Matt Ryan completed several throws to wide receivers not named Julio Jones and Roddy White. The defense tackled occasionally. The sky is blue.

Who am I kidding? The season is almost lost.

In the latest episode of the soap opera, When the Wounded Bird Turns, Arthur Blank has little reason to be proud. Fans aren't considering how the Falcons will get the to the Super Bowl promised land. They're thinking about what value they can get from trading Tony Gonzalez or losing as many games as possible to get a high draft pick.

Here are five reasons the Falcons lost this contest in the desert. Diehard fans may find some of them to be familiar:

Falcons Lack "Pride and Poise"

One of the mottos of the Oakland Raiders is "Pride and Poise." With four turnovers and ten penalties, the Falcons lack both pride and poise. Meanwhile, Oakland has won three games before the Falcons. Commence groaning.

All four turnovers were from quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan throwing four interceptions in the second half. Insert water-related pun here.

Defense Gashed By Cardinals Running Game

Imagine this:

"Hey, we can get the job done without a nose tackle and two rookie linebackers in the front seven," says Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. "Oh, hi, John Abraham. Sorry I couldn't find room to keep you and Osi Umenyiora even though we still have cap room."

"Yo, get outta my way as I tear through you like tissue," said Cardinals running back Andre Ellington, a 5' 9", 199-pound bulldozer humiliating the Falcons defense with 154 yards on just 15 rushes.

End imagining. Head coach Mike Smith said in his press conference that it was inexperienced players giving up the edge allowing for Ellington's 80-yard touchdown run. That's one more occasion where "Rise Up" becomes a broken promise.

Now imagine what the near-future holds:

"Welp, how many draft picks will I throw away for the next college stud?" asks Dimitroff.

"Organizational embarrassment is just part of the process," replies head coach Mike Smith.

"At least I can rest on the sidelines knowing I sacked Matt Ryan. Payback!" says John Abraham.

Falcons Lack Running Game

Imagine this, also: "Uh, guys, could you give me the largess needed to open holes so I can gain yardage?" asks Falcons running back Steven Jackson to his big offensive linemen.

The major free agent signing returns from injury for a grand total of 6 yards. Welcome back, Steven! I don't hate the lackluster featured back despite the 2008 season and the prime of Michael "The Burner" Turner being long gone. Due to injuries, grading Jackson's individual performance this season is far from complete.

Who matched the red-hot Andre Ellington yard for yard? Why, it's Matt "Matty Ice" Ryan, running for his life making a key 13-yard run on a converted fourth down late in the game. Ryan's 13 yards makes him the team's leading rusher for the possibly the first (and hopefully, only) time ever. The Falcons' running game was totally chilled.

Okay, Ryan didn't really "match" the Cardinals, but it's more fun to think about his accomplishment than to discuss the offensive line. That leads me to…

…Falcons' Offensive Offensive Line

The Falcons never had the reputation for having a lineup of All-Pros in the trenches. Sam Baker, Dimitroff's second ever draft pick, is injured again. The offensive line, Lamar Holmes, Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Garrett Reynolds, and Jeremy Trueblood, can continue to work out the kinks. Fans have had enough with so much offensive failure.

Did I mention earlier that Matt Ryan lead the team rushing with 13 yards? That's how noteworthy Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers were.

Falcons Have Paltry Red Zone Offense

Here's a new motto for the Falcons' 2013 campaign: "Red Zone Means Bloody Awful." That should be saved for their London trip.

Yet again, the Falcons struggled to put up touchdowns while in the red zone. The two most successful drives in the first half led to field goals. I don't know whether it's poor scheming, bad playcalling, or horrid execution. I'm at the "whatever" point so it's probably all three.

According to, Atlanta is 22nd in Red Zone TD Percentage and is slightly above the New Orleans Saints in said category. Finally, something to brag about with Saints fans for a few days.

Anyway, I'm sick of thinking about the red zone offense. Kicker Matt Bryant sure is great, isn't he? Having made 9 out ten field goals within 40 yards, Bryant's the security blanket above the bug-infested broken bed that is the Falcons offense. I can hold my head up in pride when good ol' number three takes the field.

Our red and black heroes are 2-5, and I'm clinging to something positive. Anything.

C.A. Riley is a long-suffering Georgia sports fan. Find him writing about pop culture at Go Dawgs.

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