The Atlanta Falcons used two huge touchdowns from wide-receiver Taylor Gabriel and flew past the Arizona Cardinals 38-19 in the Georgia Dome Sunday. The wide-receiver from Abilene Christian had four catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
“They were great calls by Kyle [Shanahan] at the time and timing it up against their pressure, Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan said. “It makes your job pretty easy as a quarterback to just flick it out there and then watch. On all of them, to get it going the offensive line needs to do a great job, your wide receivers need to do a great job, and your running backs in getting that thing going. I thought we did across the board. We did a really nice job with that, and then Taylor [Gabriel] finished it off really well. He made great individual plays on both of those to get in the end zone. They were huge for us and got us going with critical plays.”
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Gabriel became the second player in the past five seasons to score twice on screen passes. Jamaal Charles last accomplished that feat with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.
Meanwhile, Matt Ryan went 26/34 for 269 yards, throwing two touchdowns and one interception. After the game, he was reflective on the Falcons’ performance coming off the bye week.
“I thought the finish was exactly what we wanted, Ryan said. “Obviously, we didn’t finish out the half the way we wanted to and didn’t have a really good start to the second half, but nobody panicked. Nobody blinked. We came back out and outscored them 21-6 from that point on in the second half. That’s what you need to do. They are a good football team with a really good defense and aggressive scheme with pass rushing and blitzing. I thought we weathered the storm at certain times really well and played really aggressively.”
Cornerback Desmond Trufant did not play Sunday due to a torn pectoral muscle injury. Jalen Collins started in his place. He had 6 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and defensed three passes.
“One thing I thought just I could feel his competition and his intent to play aggressive especially at the line,” Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn said regarding Collins. “They’re going to have some catches. He was matched up on Floyd a bunch, who we certainly have a lot of respect for, but the challenge down in the red zone and the challenge on some of the outside ones, they’ve got some good guys who are going to get some catches. Certainly, the way we started defensively was not how we want that to go driving right down the field. We tried some different looks and Carson Palmer like he can do so for us to come back after we had a disappointing start. It’s what I would hope would happen in terms of our mindset and attitude of how to play.”
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians left Atlanta confused by his normally-reliable defense. They gave up 114 rushing yards and let players other than Julio Jones defeat them.
“I thought this game came down to three dropped balls, Arians said. “We dropped a big interception during the second drive DJ [Swearinger] catches that ball 100 times and he drops it. Then the fourth down drop by WR Michael Floyd killed the momentum we had going. I thought both of those plays were the keys to the second half in an evenly fought ballgame. I thought our young offensive line played really well until they were put into a situation where it was pass, pass, pass. Every lineman was struggling and I didn’t think we got enough pressure on Matty [QB Matt Ryan] as he was throwing the ball quick. He was doing a good job on his play action, other than the reverse and that scramble we were doing okay on the running game, other than two runs. We lost containment on the last one. It was a disappointing loss.”
The showdown between Julio Jones and Patrick Peterson did not materialize. Julio was targeted seven times, caught four passes for 35 yards. However, each time they matched up each play was extremely physical. Peterson was playing on an injured knee and his status for next week’s game is uncertain.
“This was a big game for me, Peterson said. “My guys know that if I can walk, nine times out of ten I’m going to try to get on the field because my guys look up to me to make those plays, grinding it out. It is those types of things that contribute to the team. I couldn’t miss this game for anything in the world. I just wanted to go out there and put myself in the best position to help myself make plays, but also help the defense make plays.”
The Atlanta Falcons improved to 7-4 and lead the NFC South. The Dirty Birds will welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to the Georgia Dome at 1:00PM next Sunday. The Arizona Cardinals dropped to 4-6-1 and will face the Washington Redskins next week in Glendale.
Images used in this article are by the Associated Press.