The Recap: Week 4 Cardinals @ Falcons

Everyone knew Arizona's offensive unit would have to bring their game if they had any chance of hanging with the turbo-charged Atlanta squad. What wasn't clear was how the Cardinals defense would stack up against the Michael Vick-led  unit. With the Falcons coming in at 3-0, no one really thought that it would even be a contest but Arizona showed up to play.

The Falcons began their opening drive from the 12, following a fumble by KR DeAndra Cobb inside the 10 that bounced off several players before going out of bounds. From the start, Coach Jim Mora employed a very conservative gameplan, moving away from the gunslinger-like approach that had been in place for the first 3 regular-season games. That approach called for QB Michael Vick to drop back then make a decision on whether to pass or run for it, constantly keeping the defenses on their heels. Apparently, success would not deter Mora from his plans. Atlanta's first two plays went for minimal yardage on rushes by backs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett, as both DE Leonard Little and DT Langston Moore made first contact behind the line of scrimmage on the plays. On the ensuing 3rd and long, the Falcons completed a short pass to TE Alge Crumpler in the right flat that was good for 3 yards, but Crumpler was leveled on the play by LB James Darling. He would leave the field without assistance, but would not return for the remainder of the contest.

The Cardinals offense still left a lot to be desired and were unable to even cross into Falcon territory until late in the second quarter, when WR Larry Fitzgerald made an adjustment on an errant Kurt Warner pass. He then slipped 6 tackles on his way to a 68-yard TD. Fortunately, the lack of offense was a moot point due to the Arizona defensive effort. The unit was actually able to match the offensive point output in the first half when LB Karlos Dansby was able to chase down Vick on a 3rd and 2 from midfield, forcing him into a poor throw, resulting in CB David Macklin intercepting the pass and marching untouched for the TD.

The second half started off with a bang for the Redbirds, as RB Edgerrin James took control with his team holding a two touchdown lead. On the first drive of the half, he picked up 68 yards on 8 carries and allowed Arizona to burn over 8 minutes off the clock. The drive eventually stalled at the Atlanta 7 yardline, but K Neil Rackers was able to pick up the FG to give the Cardinals a 17-0 lead with the 3rd quarter halfway over.

What was most surprising was that the Falcons' offensive gameplan did not alter from the first half, even in the face of a large deficit so late in the game. Instead, Coach Mora called for short, quick passes, not giving his quarterback the option of running. Vick faced complete frustration for the first 3 quarters under this approach, only completing 8 of 18 passes in that time. Luckily for the him, the Falcons coaching staff came to their senses in their first offensive series of the 4th, allowing the QB to take control of the offense. It paid immediate dividends, as Vick rolled right and strolled into the secondary behind solid blocking and beat CB Antrel Rolle and FS Adrian Wilson in a footrace on route to a 53-yard TD run.

Vick continued to be hot throughout the 4th quarter, completing long passes to receivers Roddy White and Jerome Pathon and scoring on another run from 11 yards out with 3:01 left in the game. Unfortunately for the Atlanta faithful, it was too little, too late as James (29 carries, 136 yards, 1 TD) picked up two rushing first downs to prevent the Falcons from regaining possession, giving the Cards the shocking victory.

Cardinals win 17-14

On Tap:

After this week's huge win, the Cardinals will have to curb their celebration and head to the film room early as their Week 5 task is an even more difficult challenge when they face the Kansas City Chiefs in Cardinals Stadium. The Chiefs defense has been stifling this year, ranking number 2 in rushing defense and 7th in pass defense after the first 4 contests. Arizona's offense still has yet to truly impress and will face their most difficult challenge to date. For now, though the team will bask in the glow of this confidence-building win before they head back to the desert in what will surely be an enjoyable flight. 

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