By Matthew Asher
Nobody ever said you had to win pretty. Playing in what was to-date probably the worst game of his career, Matt Ryan was still able to overcome throwing a career-high five interceptions as the Falcons escaped with a 23-19 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Looking at statistics alone, Atlanta should have absolutely destroyed Arizona. The Falcons amassed 354 total yards of offense while the staggering Cardinals were able to just muster 178. How bad was Arizona’s offense? Simply put, the Falcons and their terrible rushing attack had more yards (58) than the Cardinals passing game (41).
Of all things, it was Atlanta’s running game that scored the winning touchdown. Michael Turner scored on a 1-yard run with less than seven minutes remaining in the game. He may have scored the winning touchdown, but the rest of his statistics were terrible as he picked up just 46 yards on 15 carries.
Kicker Matt Bryant gets an A. Kicking field goals of 51, 28 and 48 yards, respectively, Bryant kept the Falcons in the game. He finished the game a perfect 5-5 on kick attempts with 11 points.
Atlanta’s defense gets an A. Turner may have scored the winning points, but the game ball belongs to Atlanta’s defense. With the Falcons turning the ball over six times, Atlanta’s defense was absolutely smothering. Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein summed up the game perfectly by stating, “If you would have told us yesterday we’d get the ball four or five times on their side of the 50, I’d have said, `Yeah, we’re going to beat them, and beat them by a large margin.”
Not only did the Falcons defense prevent the Cardinals from scoring lots of points off the turnovers, but they also scored a touchdown. Jonathan Babineaux picked up a fumbled ball and ran it into the endzone after John Abraham knocked the ball out of Ryan Lindley’s hands.
Wide receiver Roddy White gets a B+. Eight catches for 123 yards. Nobody else for the Falcons even recorded 50 receiving yards. This is the fifth game in which has eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark. The only reason he doesn’t get an A is because he didn’t score any touchdowns. otherwise, he had a great game.
Atlanta’s rushing attack gets a C-. If this sound familiar, it is. Atlanta’s running game has constantly been underperforming nearly the entire season. Rushing for just 58 yards on 20 attempts is no way to dominate the ground game.
Matt Ryan gets a D-. When your first pass attempt of a game is intercepted, you know the game is going to be a tough one. Sure, Matty Ice threw for more than 300 yards for the sixth time this year (he passed for 299 against Kansas City in Week 1–rounding that one up), but he didn’t throw any touchdown passes. While Ryan didn’t throw any TD’s against Dallas in Week 9, he didn’t throw any interceptions that game. Until throwing five against Arizona, Ryan’s previous high for interceptions in a single game was three.
Ryan’s QB rating was a horrible 40.5. His previous worst this year was 59.4 against the Oakland Raiders when Ryan did throw three interceptions, but one touchdown.
An interesting note about Ryan’s performance in this game: According to STATS LLC, this is the first time since 1967 a quarterback has thrown five interceptions, no touchdowns but still win the game. Hall of Fame Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr is the other player with that dubious distinction. Ryan didn’t seem to take that news too bad. “That’s good company to be in,” Ryan said with a chuckle.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.