By Matthew Asher
With the news of Steven Jackson returning to the Falcons lineup, it seemed like Atlanta had a good shot at leaving Arizona with a 3-4 record. Instead it was Arizona’s rookie running back, sixth-round draft pick Andre Ellington, who made all the difference in the game.
The former Clemson Tiger ran for 154 yards on only 15 carries. One of them was an 80-yard gallop in the second quarter which gave Arizona a 14-6 lead, and signalled doom for the Dirty Birds. On a side note, Larry Fitzgerald was held in check to just four catches for 48 yards, but those four grabs gave him 800 career catches, the youngest person to do so at 30 years and 57 days. Congratulations Larry.
Jackson was a non-factor gaining only six yards on 11 carries, eerily similar to Atlanta’s previous starting running back, Michael Turner. Other than a garbage-time touchdown to Drew Davis in the fourth quarter, Atlanta’s offense couldn’t do anything right.
Harry Douglas Grade: B+
Probably the only bright spot on Atlanta’s offense all day, Douglas was responsible for 12 receptions totaling 121 yards. The rest of the Falcons caught a total of 22 passes for 180 yards. Earlier in the week it was mentioned that Arizona lets opposing tight ends have big games in their losses. Sunday, Tony Gonzalez caught just three passes for 26 yards.
Falcons Offense: F
It was a very one-dimensional game for the Falcons. More than 80 percent of their offensive plays were through the air. Matt Ryan did throw for more than 300 yards but it took him 61 pass attempts, completing 34 of them for a very unimpressive 55 percent completion rate. Ryan threw four interceptions and just one touchdown.
The running game was simply atrocious. Ryan, Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers ran 14 times for a combined 27 yards. That’s not even two yards a carry and Ryan’s lone scramble went for 13 of those yards.
Falcons Rushing Defense: D-
It was sixth-round draft pick Andre Ellington who did the majority of the damage against the Falcons on Sunday – the rookie’s first NFL start. The 80-yard touchdown run he scored ties him with the third-longest run in franchise history. The Falcons rushing defense was able to avoid an “F” because of the rest of the work they did limiting the ground game. Take away that 80-yard run and Atlanta surrendered 121 yards on 30 attempts. While four yards a carry isn’t that impressive, it was that one big run that was the back-breaker for Atlanta.
Now at 2-5, the Falcons are on very thin ice. One or two more losses and it’s very possible that they will be eliminated from making a playoff run. The Falcons head to North Carolina next week where they take on the 4-3 NFC South rival Carolina Panthers. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EST.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.