The Falcons never really looked troubled by either an impotent Cardinals offense or a bland Arizona defense that failed to ask any questions of a unit that had struggled so mightily in Week 1. They face a much sterner test in the New Orleans Saints in Week 3, but if they were low on confidence after an overtime loss this would have gone some way to restoring it.
It all starts at the quarterback position when you’re addressing the Cardinals problems. Derek Anderson was poor (-1.9) on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. He completed only one ball when he threw the ball longer than 10 yards, couldn’t handle the blitz (-2.0 rating) and struggled with accuracy all day long. Larry Fitzgerald looked healthier (+1.7) but it’s a shame that such a talented player is being subjected to erratic quarterback displays. Max Hall threw a pick but you have to think the Cards are in rebuild mode now, and Anderson is not a guy you want to build around.
Anderson had problems with his offensive line all game, where outside of Lyle Sendlein (perfect day in pass protection), they were completely outmatched. Levi Brown (-9.7) was the biggest culprit, being responsible for a sack and a terrible 8 pressures. Next to him, Alan Faneca was obliterated time and time again by Jonathan Babineaux (1 sack, 1 hit and 2 pressures) in a collective display that showed you why Warner made the right choice to retire before this unit endangered his health on a permanent basis.
The defense was just as bad. No pressure, too many penalties and their much-praised secondary made to look sub-standard. The most disappointing display was that of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (-3.8). Rodgers-Cromartie was tasked with matching up on Roddy White for most of the game and Matt Ryan showed no fear going after him in completing 7 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. DRC made some plays (3 pass deflections) but the touchdown, two costly pass interference penalties (one on third down and one in the end zone) and 2 missed tackles characterized a poor game by anyone’s standards.
After the mauling their offense took at the hands of the Steelers, they found their feet early and never looked back. Tormentor in chief was the excellent Jason Snelling (+3.4 overall), who took over from the almost as excellent Michael Turner (+1.8 rushing) when he went down with a groin injury. Snelling didn’t allow a pressure when left into pass block, picked up 62 yards after the catch and 72 yards after contact in a performance that is starting to create a running back controversy among Falcons fans. As he did at the end of 2009, Snelling certainly looks like he can handle the load.
Outside of one play, the Falcons’ defense had the kind of day you go to bed thinking of. Much of this was inspired by the return of the excellent Babineaux. Not in for the touchdown play, Babineaux feasted on “Pro Bowl” guard Faneca. He set the tone with a couple of jarring hits on Anderson and never let him develop the confidence to step up in the pocket. Babineaux versus Carl Nicks next week could be one of the best matchups of talent on talent that nobody talks about.
When the Falcons gave Dunta Robinson so much money, some scoffed after the year that Robinson had with the Texans. The Falcons starting right cornerback is starting to show the pre-injuryskills that made him one of the league’s most highly touted cornerbacks. He had a brilliant game against the Cardinals (+3.8). It was against Anderson (which is a big disclaimer), but the 4 times that Arizona threw at Robinson resulted in 2 completions, 2 pass deflections and just 7 yards of offense. Throw in a couple of bone-jarring hits and you have a very good day indeed.
Hall threw underthrew a ball on his second NFL pass attempt, an ominous start … First-round pick Dan Williams rotated in at nose tackle and at least fared better (-0.2 versus -1.2) than Bryan Robinson in run defense … Daryl Washington made a lot of tackles (11) without missing one and outperformed Paris Lenon … The rookie receivers struggled. Stephen Williams (-1.9) tipped one overthrown ball into William Moore‘s arms and dropped a pass that also should have gone to Moore, and Max Komar was bested by Robinson the only time the ball was thrown to him … Jim Dray gave up a hit on his only attempt at pass blocking
For Atlanta, Corey Peters (+1.3) started and picked up 2 quarterback pressures and held his own in run defense … Sean Weatherspoon (+0.9) was a lot better attacking the quarterback (1 sack and 2 pressures) than being attacked (5 completions allowed on 5 throws) … Domonique Franks, Shaun Schillinger and Michael Palmer saw a little action, with Franks picking up an interception on only his second career play
The Arizona defense had almost twice as many penalties (nine) as quarterback pressures (five). We may never see numbers like that again.
Every player on the Falcons’ offensive line graded out positively, even Sam Baker, who committed three penalties. Baker limited Joey Porter to just 1 pressure, as Ryan was given an easy time of things.