Matt Ryan made history on Sunday when the Falcons took on the Arizona Cardinals at the Georgia Dome. In fact, he did something that hasn’t been done since Bart Starr was the quarterback for the Green Bay Packer in the 1967.
Ryan became the first quarterback since Starr to throw five interceptions, zero touchdowns and came away with the win.
That’s right, Ryan threw five picks, no touchdowns and the Falcons still came away with a 23-19 win over the Cardinals.
“It really doesn’t happen that often, it really doesn’t,” Ryan said who only threw seven interceptions the first nine games of the year. “I’m surrounded by really good teammates that picked us up today and made plays when they needed to.”
Ryan threw his first interception on the first play on the game when he hit Roddy White on 15-yard pass, but White bobbled the ball and Rashad Johnson came up with it, which was returned to the Falcons 9-yard line. That led to a LaRod Stephens-Howling 3-yard touchdown run to give the Cardinals the 7-0 lead.
Ryan threw his second interception later in the first when Darnell Dockett batted the pass intended for Julio Jones and William Gay came up with the pick. However, the Falcons were able to the Cardinals to go three-and-out on the ensuing series.
The third pick came on the next offensive series when Ryan overthrew Tony Gonzalez and landed into the hands of Kerry Rhodes, which led to a Jay Feely 28-yard field goal to give the Cardinals the 13-0 lead.
“We were kind of sleep walking through the first quarter of the football game,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. It shows we’re a resilient football team that is going to find ways to win.”
The second quarter was a little better for the Falcons as they outscored the Cardinals 16-3. It started early in the quarter when Bryant kicked a 51-yard field goal to cut the Cardinals lead to 10. Then on the Cardinals ensuing drive, John Abraham sacked Ryan Lindley, forced the fumble and it was recovered by Jonathan Babineaux for a 15-yard touchdown.
Bryant kicked another field goal later in the quarter to give the Falcons the 13-13 tie, which was a 28-yarder. Both teams then exchanged field goals to end the half tied 16-16.
“They gave us some early unscouted looks early on,” Smith said talking about the Cardinals defense. We had to get on the sideline and put some chalk to the chalk board and make sure we had some things blocked up.”
The Falcons had their chances to take the lead in the third quarter, but turnovers cost them potential points. The midway through the third, Ryan threw a 7-yard pass to Snelling, which he fumbled, recovered by Johnson and forced by Sam Acho, who was going out of bounds but able to keep the ball in play. Smith thought Acho was out of bounds as he was recovering the fumble and threw the challenge flag. But because that play was reviewable and could have been reviewed by the replay assistant, it wiped out the challenge by Smith, the Cardinals kept possession and the Falcons were penalized 15 yards for unsportmanlike conduct.
“I learned from it and we won’t let it happen again,” Smith said, “I can assure you that.”
Later in the quarter, Ryan threw his fourth pick when he threw a short pass intended for Roddy White, but Daryl Washington undercut the route and put the Cardinals at the Falcons 16-yard line. That led to a Feely 27-yard field goal and the Cardinals led by three to start the fourth quarter.
After both teams exchanged punts, the Falcons put together a 7-play, 70-yard drive, which ended with a Michael Turner 1-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons the lead for the first time.
“We got a good push from the offensive line and I found a crease to hit the get in the end zone,” Turner said. I also have to a lot of props to FB Mike Cox who did a good job blocking for me.”
The Cardinals had one more chance to get a late score and come away with a win because Ryan threw his fifth interception later in the quarter when Ryan threw a pass that was tipped to Dan Williams and fell in to the hands of Acho. But the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs when Larry Fitzgerald dropped a first down pass that would have put them in the Falcons red zone. The Falcons burned the final three minutes off the clock to secure the win.
“Coach Nolan and his staff, the guys put together a very good game plan and they went out and executed it, Smith said whose defense limited Larry Fitzgerald to one catch for 11 yards. “ We wanted to make sure we stopped their number one guy. We did a nice job.”
The Falcons came away with the win and improve to 9-1, that’s the important thing. However, they do have some big issues they have to address moving forward, especially with the next two games being against NFC South opponents in Tampa Bay and New Orleans.
“In the NFL, as long as you can get the win, that’s all that matters, John Abraham said. “We had a few turnovers, but we’ll go back and look at the film to correct those mistakes going forward. Coming off a tough loss last week, we’ll take a win however we can get it.”