Falcons at Cardinals: 3 keys to the game

cfb181216693 falcons v cardinals

With the Falcons skidding at 1-4 and more negative injury news coming yesterday, Atlanta’s season could be over by Sunday. They host the lowly Arizona Cardinals (who have a better record) and first-year Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury. I’m almost 100% sure we can mark this down as Kyler Murray’s coming out party, but if the Falcons are going to keep their season alive, this is how they’re going to have to do it.

Keep Pressure and Contain on Kyler Murray

Murray ran for a critical first down against Cincy last Sunday to put them in field goal range to win their first game, and even though he’s smaller, he is as shifty as they come. Murray has no problem taking off and making a defense look silly, and given time; he can make some game-changing throws. The Falcons managed ONE QB hit on DeShaun Watson last weekend, and he put a 50 burger on their heads. Arizona might be the only team other than Houston with a worse offensive line, and if the Falcons can’t get to Murray, make him uncomfortable and notch a few sacks, he will run wild. Murray hasn’t been that bad throwing the ball either; a 63% completion percentage, with a 6.6 YPA, and 4 TDs through the air isn’t awful for a rookie and a rookie head coach. He has been sacked 22 times (Compared to Matt Ryan’s 12), but he’s running at a clip of 7.4 YPC with 2 TDs. Keep him in the pocket and force him to make rookie mistakes.

Keep Chandler Jones off of Matt Ryan

Time and time again, Matt Ryan catches most of the blame for the Falcons struggles. He had a good game against Houston, 70% completion, 330 yards, 7.2 YPA, 3 TDs, and a garbage time INT that wasn’t his fault. He was only sacked twice, which is a good omen. However, a grown man is lining up across from our O-Line this weekend. The man who has led the league in sacks since he came into the league in 2012; Chandler Jones is already at four for the season, bringing his career total to 80. He is a one-man wrecking crew, and if McGary and Matthews don’t step up, it’s going to be a long day for Matt Ryan, which could result in turnovers. Jones has forced three fumbles on the season, including two in one game against Carolina. He has a career number of 22. Know where #55 is at all times, or he will haunt your dreams at night.

Don’t Let David Johnson Get Going

Atlanta can’t stop much of anything these days, but the run has been a very sore spot. They only allowed 49 rushing yards to Philly and won (barely, albeit). Look at the numbers in losses so far.

Minnesota: 172 Yards, 4.5 YPC

Indianapolis: 79 Yards, 3.3 YPC

Tennessee: 138 yards, 4.1 YPC

Houston: 166 yards, 4.9 YPC

Now, notice the Colts. The Falcons were *semi* competitive in that game, and even though their pass defense was shredded otherwise, they had a chance to win. Enter David Johnson. He has 264 yards on the season rushing and is averaging 4.1 YPC. Not crazy impressive, but he is such an asset in the aerial attack. He’s got 24 catches for 247 yards and 2 TDs, averaging 10.3 yards a catch. To put that in perspective, he has more receptions than anyone on the Falcons except for Austin Hooper and Julio Jones and has a better YPR than Mohamed Sanu. He’s an elite weapon. In his 2016 MVP caliber season, Johnson had 80 receptions for 879 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 1,239 with 16 TDs and a 4.2 YPC. This guy is dangerous and can make a porous defense like the Falcons look like swiss cheese if he gets into space.

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