Cardinals Fans (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)
The Arizona Cardinals didn’t mind the underdog label heading into their playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday at home. They took the idea and ran with it, surprising the league with a hidden ground game and continued aerial attack. Arizona's defense was on point fusing out the league’s most volatile runner. Here is what worked and what didn’t in the Cardinals 30-24 win over Atlanta.
--Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley's play calling was superb on Saturday. The final pass-rush ratio read 60 pass plays to 28 rushing plays. Ken Whisenhunt asked for a 50-50 ratio when the season first started, but the results never granted him his wish. On Saturday that all changed.
Edgerrin James was given the starting nod and broke off tackles, fought for the extra yardage and was a workhorse for the team he longs to leave. James finished the day with 73 yards on 16 carries, a 4.6 average.
Thanks to Bertrand Berry, Karlos Dansby, Chike Okeafor, among others, James finished higher than running back sensation Michael Turner who capped the day with 42 yards and a 2.3 per carry average.
--The Atlanta Falcons successfully kept the Cardinals’ offense off the field in the first half, but the Cardinals were scoring touchdowns so fast it didn’t really matter. But the Cardinals turned the possession clock around and won the battle by holding on to the football four more seconds in total time.
--The Cardinals may have more continuity than ever, but they don’t have a lot of playoff experience. Long-tenured players like Adrian Wilson have never seen what happens in January. But the veteran players who have reached the postseason with other teams stepped up in a big way. Kurt Warner, James, Berry, Okeafor, Ralph Brown and others helped lead the team.
--The Cardinals were pretty flawless until what was meant to be the Falcons last possession of the second half. The Cardinals failed to plug the holes and allowed Turner burn into the end zone, 14-10.
The Falcons took the ball right back, as Chevis Jackson took advantage of a blotched reception by Jerheme Urban and earned the interception.
Consequently, the Falcons got pay back when they too earned a touchdown off a turnover to send the Cardinals into the locker room with a 17-14 deficit.
--The Cardinals rushing game worked so well in the first quarter, but they abandoned it until the third quarter. Arizona needs to be more consistent. Once they allowed James to touch the ball again, there was a nice rhythm of rush, rush, pass deep.
--The officiating left much to be desired. The officials were letting the players play, but there some blatant holds that could have worked in the Cardinals favor, if called.