(Updated with comments from Devin Hester.)
Here's a link
Well, where did that come from?
Here's a link to my game column on the Falcons' 29-18 win over Arizona. Below are my three "short takes" on the game:
1. A fan would ask, "Was it them or was it us?" OK, so Arizona did not play like a 9-2 football team. The Falcons had 17 points on Arizona's defense just over nine minutes into the game and the Cardinals' offense, now under the direction of backup quarterback Drew Stanton with Carson Palmer out for the season, mostly looked dreadful. But give the Falcons' credit. They had more than 500 yards in offense. They played by far their best game of the season, particularly defensively. For the first time this season, they beat an opponent with a winning record -- and an opponent outside the division. The defense appeared to get a life from the return of safety William Moore, who had been sidelined for seven games with a shoulder injury. Dwight Lowery and Josh Wilson had interceptions and Desmond Trufant had a fumble recovery. If this is an aberration, we'll find out soon. Next opponent: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
2. If you were looking for Julio Jones, there he is: There has been some debate about what level of commitment the Falcons should make with wide receiver Julio Jones. The team has picked up a $10.176 million option for the 2015 season but it's believed/assumed the they would prefer to lock him up with a long-term deal. However, the fact Jones had not been having a great season -- eight dropped passes (via Pro Football Focus), lost two fumbles and four touchdowns in the first 11 games including seven straight without one -- led some to wonder if the team would be better served spending their money elsewhere. But Jones had his best game of the season against Arizona. Actually, he had the best game of his career: 10 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. He had eight catches for 132 yards and a 32-yard touchdown in then first half alone as he frequently torched Arizona's Patrick Peterson. The two had words through the media during the week and were rivals in college days.
3. Devin Hester says refs admitted they blew call on punt return: Falcons punt returner Devin Hester had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by something you rarely (if ever) see -- a facemask penalty on the player with the ball. Replays showed that Hester indeed stiff-armed punter Drew Butler in the face near the Arizona two-yard line. But it was just as clear that Butler pulled Hester's facemask. After the game, Hester said officials admitted they blew the call: "I didn't agree with it. I felt like he grabbed my facemask and there was a misread by the ref. Several plays later they admitted that. It was an opposite call. Too late then." Asked if the official who made the call admitted the mistake, Hester said: "The one that called it said when they sat down and talked about it a couple of plays later, it was supposed to (go) the opposite way." At the very least, officials should have called offsetting penalties, nullified the return and had the Cardinals punt again. Instead, Hester and special teams coach Keith Armstrong (unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing) both drew 15-yard penalties, leaving the Falcons with a first-and-25 from the Arizona 32. They ultimately kicked a field goal.
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