There was little to celebrate, a lot to complain about, and it ended with a loss.
1) Rashad Johnson
Early in the 2nd quarter, S Rashad Johnson intercepted QB Matt Ryan, returning it 88 yards for a TD. It was a fun play to see, and it put the Cardinals within 10 of the Falcons.
2) Jonathan Cooper
The first round pick from last year finally got significat playing time, first switching off with Ted Larsen at left guard, and then taking over at LG once Paul Fanaika left with an injury, causing Larsen to switch to RG for the remainder of the game. Cooper looked good throughout the game, and we could possibly see him become a permanent member of the offensive line at some point this season.
3) We're still in first?
The Cardinals currently sit a half game ahead of the surging Seattle Seahawks. So at least we hold on to our division title for one more week.
1) The offense
When Palmer went down, the team's life flashed before everyone's eyes. But many of us were still hopeful that the offense could continue its success under backup QB Drew Stanton. Wow, this has not been fun. Before the 4th quarter, when Stanton threw a garbage time TD to RB Stepfan Taylor, the Cardinals were riding a 10 quarter streak of no offensive TDs. Stanton was pretty ineffective the entire game, and the two interceptions he threw definitely didn't help. Performances like the one we saw Sunday don't carry teams to the Playoffs.
2) The Run Game
To break down the offensive woes even further, the Cardinals' current run game is the worst I have ever seen from this team. It was already bad enough before this game. Adding in an early injury to Andre Ellington, and disastrous results awaited. In total, Ellington and Marion Grice totaled 28 yards rushing against a lackluster Atlanta rush defense. (On the bright side, Grice did have some nice plays, specifically a screen pass)
3) The Secondary
What happened to the vaunted "no-fly zone"? CBs Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie were absolutely man-handled by the Falcons receivers, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas. Both Jones and Douglas had 100+ yard games, and all in all, it was not a fun time for Peterson or Cromartie. In addition, the secondary lost S Tyrann Mathieu to an injury, and if he misses the coming game against the Chiefs, it will be a huge blow to the defense.
4) The Run Defense
The Cardinals' biggest strength this year has been their run defense, as they have regularly been ranked in the Top 5 in this area. Well, their league-leading streak of games without an opponent rushing for more than 100 yards ended on Sunday, as RB Steven Jackson collected 101 yards on the ground off 18 attempts. Why can't our RBs have games like this?
I'm pretty sure you could form an entire team from the injured Cardinals players. In fact, I'm pretty sure that team would be able to compete for a Superbowl. First, Larry Fitzgerald missed the game, a huge blow to the offense. Then, Ellington went down early, which is never a good sign, considering the offense essentially leans on him. Next, Mathieu left the game, and this was followed by Fanaika being carted off. "Next man up" has worked as a team motto all season, but have the Cardinals reached their limit? There's only a certain amount of starters and star players that one franchise can miss. The end of the season is nearing, and the Cardinals are missing their leaders. But that's just football I guess.