ReFo: Cardinals @ Falcons, Week 13
In a battle of two division leaders that were separated by five games in the win column heading into this one, the underdog thoroughly dominated from start to finish. The Falcons running game got rolling out of the gates with a 55-yard run from Steven Jackson on their first possession and then the Falcons’ passing attack piled on to a 20-10 halftime lead.
Facing the early deficit, Bruce Arians abandoned the run (43 drop-backs compared to 13 runs) and put the game squarely on Drew Stanton’s shoulders, but Stanton was predictably inaccurate and struggled mightily to sustain a drive. His overthrown interception mid-way through the fourth quarter put the game on ice as the Falcons remain atop the NFC south with the 29-18 win.
Arizona Cardinals – Performances of Note
Patrick Peterson, CB: -2.4
Breakdown: The grade looks bad, but the numbers look worse. Ryan was 9-of-9 for 174 yards with a touchdown when targeting Peterson on Sunday. Locked up in man coverage on Julio Jones for the majority of the game, the Cardinals’ cornerback was never got completely burnt, but he was repeatedly beaten at the point of catch.
Signature Stat: Peterson’s 174 yards allowed is the fourth-highest total by a cornerback this season.
Antonio Cromartie, CB: -3.1
Breakdown: It’s hard to win when your top two cornerbacks get beaten as thoroughly as the Cardinals’ did against the Falcons. Cromartie yielded eight of nine targets for 89 yards, the bulk of which came via Harry Douglas. Cromartie’s grade was then compounded by some less-than-stellar work against the run, most notably on Steven Jackson’s 55-yard scamper in the first quarter.
Signature Play: There were no huge plays to point to for Cromartie, just a handful of sloppy ones. No play exemplifies that better than at Q1-2:25 where the Cardinals’ corner completely overpursued a whip route from Douglas and ended up flat on his back.
Jared Veldheer, LT: +3.5
Breakdown: The bright spot once again on an offensive line that has been a mess for much of the year. Veldheer allowed just one pressure to the combination of Maliciah Goodman and Osi Umenyiora that he faced off against. Combine that with some solid work on the 10 running plays the Cardinals ran and you have Veldheer’s highest graded game of the season.
Signature Play: With 7:37 left in the first quarter, the Cardinals ran a simple inside zone run to the right. Veldheer as the backside tackle was asked to reach Corey Peters at the 3-technique and he executed it perfectly before planting Peters into the turf.
Atlanta Falcons – Performances of Note
Ryan Schraeder, RT: +3.0
Breakdown: Finally some semblance of quality play from a Falcon offensive tackle. Schraeder had been playing fairly average since taking over as starter in Week 8 (still major step up from Gabe Carimi), but Sunday was a career day. Schraeder allowed just two pressures and had a clean sheet in the running game.
Signature Play: It wasn’t spectacular, but Schraeder had a key block on Steven Jackson’s long run early in the first quarter. The right tackle got just enough of Deone Bucannon at the second level to keep him sealed outside on the stretch play to spring Jackson into the secondary.
Julio Jones, WR: +3.2
Breakdown: Just a beautiful performance from Jones who made contested catch after contested catch en route to 10 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers are made all the more striking by the fact that 90% of them came against Patrick Peterson. The most impressive part to me was that Jones out-physicalled probably the most physically imposing cornerback in the game.
Signature Play: His touchdown catch obviously sticks out, but my favorite play came on a 1st-and-20 right before the half. Jones ran a deep out that Peterson was all over. Knowing this, Jones worked beautifully back to the ball and caught it with his hands well out in front of his body so that Peterson never had a chance to make a play on it. All this before having to make sure he kept both feet in bounds for a 16-yard gain.
Desmond Trufant, CB: +2.2
Breakdown: The second-year cornerback just keeps quietly doing work on a much-maligned Falcon defense. Trufant allowed 3-5 targets for 18 yards and added a pass break-up. As always, Trufant played exclusively at left corner, but still lined up over Michael Floyd on the majority of the snaps and kept him in check.
Signature Stat: Trufant has a quarterback rating against of just 57.3 over the last four weeks of the season.
PFF Game Ball
Julio Jones was the best player on the field Sunday and fueled the Falcons’ offense in the win.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner