Cardinals at Falcons: Atlanta Can't Continue Winning with Sloppy Play

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterNovember 18, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 18:  James Sanders #39 of the Arizona Cardinals pressures Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 18, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons beat the Arizona Cardinals 23-19 Sunday in the Georgia Dome to move to 9-1 on the season. But Atlanta looked nothing like a team primed to make a deep playoff run.

In fact, the Falcons could be in serious trouble if things continue down this path.

Quarterback Matt Ryan threw a career-high five interceptions Sunday, and Jason Snelling fumbled once. The Falcons produced six turnovers in one game where they had only turned the ball over eight times all season prior.

But the turnovers aren’t the issue. Not by a long shot.

Ryan was constantly pressured, frequently under attack and never completely comfortable in the pocket. Ryan’s lack of pass protection will come back to haunt the Falcons at some point this year if it’s not fixed.

Ryan threw five interceptions, and the Falcons still managed to win. What do you think would have happened if Sunday’s opponent hadn't been the 4-5 Arizona Cardinals? What if the Houston Texans had been in town? What if it were the Chicago Bears?

There’s more than a good chance that Atlanta would have been blown out of the dome had a winning team been on the field for Ryan’s slopfest.

And before anyone complains that most of Ryan’s interceptions were batted in the air, he took full responsibility after the game. Ryan said he had to do a much better job of stepping to the side of the passing lanes when pressure was coming through.

Other than Ryan’s first interception that bounced of wide receiver Roddy White, the rest of Ryan’s four picks were on him. You could argue that on a couple his offensive line should have helped more, but more times than not, Ryan had no business putting the ball in the air.

The sloppy play, or playing down to the level of their opponents, is nothing new for the Falcons this year.

Atlanta squeaked by the Carolina Panthers, 30-28. The Falcons only beat the Oakland Raiders 23-20—the Dallas Cowboys 19-13.

Including the Arizona game Sunday, Atlanta has four wins over teams that are currently 14-25 by a combined total of 15 points. It’s impossible to imagine good things continually happening to the Falcons if they are beating less-than-stellar teams by slim margins.

The Cowboys are 5-5, but the other three teams are far from .500.

The Falcons under head coach Mike Smith have never been a team that runs the score up. You’re not going to see Atlanta out with a big lead trying to punch the ball into the end zone.

But this year there have been too few big leads for the Falcons to prove that point. There’s a difference between a head coach letting his foot off the gas to be sportsmanlike and a coach not being able to get his team to separate from an opponent.

Right now it’s anyone’s guess which kind of team the Falcons are.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.