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Sunday, November 18, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Falcons 23, Cardinals 19

By Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 23-19 victory against the Arizona Cardinals at the Georgia Dome on Sunday:

What it means: The Falcons are 9-1 and very lucky to have come away with a victory. They had major issues with turnovers, problems stopping the run and a continued lack of production from their own running game. They were lucky to be playing a struggling Arizona team because the formula they put on the field Sunday isn’t going to win against good teams. But the Falcons remain high atop the NFC South and have the NFC’s best record.

Matty iced: The record will show that Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan led another in a long history of game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. That’s true. But Ryan had perhaps the worst game of his career. He threw a career-high five interceptions, including three in the first quarter. In fairness, three of Ryan’s interceptions were tipped, but five interceptions in a game is way too many for a guy who had never thrown more than three interceptions in a game before. Ryan had thrown only seven interceptions in the first nine games of the season.

Bizarre play of the day: With 7:15 remaining in the third quarter, Ryan threw a short third-down pass to Jason Snelling, who appeared to be destined for a first down. But Snelling fumbled the ball. As it was heading for the sideline, one Arizona defender tipped it back and another recovered, and that’s how officials ruled it on the field. But here’s where things got really weird. Atlanta coach Mike Smith quickly threw a challenge flag. When the officials saw that, they threw a penalty flag on Smith. You don’t see this come up often, but the rule is you get an unsportsmanlike conduct for throwing a challenge flag on a turnover because all turnovers automatically are subject to replay.

Fountain of youth: John Abraham is 34 and probably has been on the field a lot more this season than the Falcons originally planned. But Abraham is showing no signs of slowing down. He had a sack/forced fumble that resulted in defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux's touchdown. Abraham finished the game with two sacks and seemed to be in the Arizona backfield all day.

Five in a row: With their ninth victory, the Falcons now have clinched their fifth straight winning season. Pretty amazing when you consider the fact the Falcons never had back-to-back winning seasons before the arrival of Smith and Ryan.

What’s next: The Falcons play at Tampa Bay next Sunday.