Falcons finally get offense in gear with blowout win over Cardinals
Julio Jones made an acrobatic touchdown catch on a pass from Matt Ryan, Deion Jones returned an interception for an early score, and the Atlanta Falcons snapped a five-game losing streak with a 40-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
The Falcons (5-9) forced three turnovers and sacked Arizona's Josh Rosen seven times, a single-game season high for both teams. Arizona (3-11) has dropped two straight and five of six under first-year coach Steve Wilks.
Julio Jones caught six passes for 82 yards, all in the first half. His 22-yard score in the closing seconds before intermission put the Falcons up 26-7. Jones beat Patrick Peterson's bump-and-run coverage down the left sideline, turning the cornerback around and twisting around him to make a diving catch.
Ryan ran for a 1-yard score early the second quarter and finished with 231 yards passing. Matt Bryant added two short field goals and Tevin Coleman had a 43-yard TD run in the third quarter as Atlanta won for the first time since Week 9 at Washington.
Grady Jarrett had two of the Falcons' season-high seven sacks, and Arizona's run defenses allowed 215 yards to the NFL's worst rushing attack.
Playing behind a makeshift offense line that has lost six players to injured reserve, Rosen was under duress all afternoon and finished with a 38.4 passer rating.
He got the Cardinals off to a fast start with running back David Johnson catching two long passes to set up a short TD run that made it 7-0, but Arizona was essentially done after Deion Jones scored a touchdown for the third time in eight career interceptions. In his fourth game back after spending most of the season sidelined by a foot injury, Jones forced a 7-all tie in the first quarter, snagging Vic Beasley's batted ball from the air and running 41 yards for Atlanta's second defensive TD of the season.
The third-year linebacker spent the first part of the game covering Johnson and was in the left flats shading the running back when Beasley tipped Rosen's pass.
QUESTIONS IN THE DESERT
It feels like a couple of months have passed since Arizona enjoyed a season highlight under Wilks, a 20-17 win at Green Bay two weeks ago.
The Cardinals were flat last week at home against Detroit and gave themselves almost no chance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Even with so many injuries, the performance was so uninspiring that Wilks might be wondering if he will return for a second season.
Arizona showed why it began the day with the league's worst scoring offense, worst passing attack and second-worst ground game.
Julio Jones injured his ribs on the TD catch and only played a few snaps in the third with the outcome all but assured. Jones missed practice one day this week with flu-like symptoms.
Cardinals cornerback David Amerson left the game with concussion symptoms and didn't return after colliding with Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu in the first.
Injured Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman likely won't return this season, but he was on the sideline cheering on his teammates. Tight end Austin Hooper did not catch a pass and was only targeted once as he played through a sore knee he hurt last week at Green Bay.
Johnson ran 11 times for 33 yards as he played with a sore quadriceps.
EYES ON THE PRIZE
Falcons coach Dan Quinn got a respite from his team's poor season of creating takeaways. Brian Poole had an interception and combined with Jarrett on a strip-sack fumble recovery. Bruce Irvin had his best game with Atlanta, finishing with 1 ½ sacks and three QB hits.
Cardinals: Host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
Falcons: Visit Carolina next Sunday.