The Arizona Cardinals evened their record on Sunday to 4-4 with a 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons going into the bye week. Starting the game better was a theme for the team after they have struggled to start most games this season. While the first quarter ended with Atlanta leading 3-0, "it was still a better start to the ballgame," according to head coach Bruce Arians.
The better start of the ballgame and even the victory, according to the head coach, can be attributed to the way the week of practice started off.
"This game was won on Monday when I asked the team to come out in pads, and we had a training camp practice," said Arians in his opening statement to the media. "A lot of teams would balk at that, but out leadership and our veterans, we had the best practice we've had all year, and it set the tempo for this game and set the tempo for the rest of this season."
Offensively, it was not great to start things off. The first drive ended with a three-and-out. The second ended in an interception. But after that, things got better.
It was a game in which the young players played a big part.
Andre Ellington, pushed into the starting role after Rashard Mendenhall was hampred with a toe injury, rushed for 154 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Stepfan Taylor ran the ball 14 times. Newcomer Teddy Williams hauled in a 51-yard catch. Tyrann Mathieu intercepted a pass and deflected two others. Marcus Benard picked up his first sack.
The veterans also had their contributions. Larry Fitzgerald caught a touchdown pass. John Abraham picked up a sack for the second consecutive game. Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker also sacked Matt Ryan. Karlos Dansby had nine tackles and a pass defended, while Daryl Washington had an interception and three pass deflections.
Now the team enters the bye with a 4-4 record, a win under their belt and another game at home in two weeks. Players will be able to get healthier and they are in the mix for the postseason entering the second half of the season.
"It's a lot more fun when you're 4-4 and you win, than when you're 3-5 and you're starting from scratch," said Arians, citing how had the team lost, there would have been said about a lot of areas. "But when you win and you win as a team, you can approach the bye week and I don't think I'll have to worry about asking the guys to work hard."
Was it the team's most complete game they have played this year? "I think so," said Larry Fitzgerald.
That's a good way to enter the bye.