After getting drubbed in Houston, the Falcons went to desert with the hope of turning around their fortunes.
But a week of bonding didn’t produce the desired result, as the Cardinals used a fourth-quarter touchdown drive and a missed extra point by Matt Bryant to prevail 34-33 over the Falcons Sunday at State Farm Stadium.
“At the end of the day nobody cares, the only thing that matters is how the game ends,” Bryant said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support, I guess it doesn’t take away from the feelings of being depended on to do my job and coming up short.
“It’s disappointing for us to fight back the way we fought back and to not finish it off.”
» STEVE HUMMER: Falcons find another excruciating way to lose
The Cardinals improved to 2-3-1, while the Falcons dropped to 1-5 on the season.
“We are definitely disappointed and frustrated,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We are not getting the job done.”
Backup quarterback Matt Schaub was the holder on the extra point try. Bryant said everything went well.
“No problems at all,” Bryant said.
Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray led the way as he completed 27-of-37 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 128.2.
Ryan was spectacular as he completed 30-of-36 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns. He had a passer rating on 144.9.
Running back Devonta Freeman had his best game of the season as he rushed 18 times for 88 yards and caught three passes for 30 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Austin Hooper caught eight passes for 117 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Julio Jones caught eight passes for 108 yards.
But with three timeouts and 1:53 left, the Falcons couldn’t get a stop after Bryant’s kick sailed wide left.
“I would say when you put everything into it, knowing that you could get your heart broken,” head coach Dan Quinn said. “This guy has made a million kicks.
“He’s as pressure and as clutch as he comes. There isn’t anybody you’d rather have in that moment that kicks extra points, field goals, there’s nobody. He is one of the most mentally tough football players that I’ve been around. It hurts today, but he’ll make big kicks for us again this year.”
Bryant had not missed an extra point since Dec. 9, 2018, against Green Bay.
Against the Cardinals, the Falcons fell behind by double-digits by halftime for the fourth time this season and trailed by 17 points before rallying to tie the game.
“We put ourselves in too big of a hole to have to come back and fight,” Quinn said. “We certainly can’t let that happen.”
The defense, after giving up scores on the Cardinals’ first five possessions, strung together three consecutive stops that allowed the offense to tie the game, 27-27.
But when the Falcons had the ball with a chance to take the lead, the offense sputtered on third-10-from the 31. Ryan was plastered by Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones on a sack.
The Cardinals, helped by Falcons’ penalties, scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass to David Johnson with just over 5 minutes to play.
The Falcons answered with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Freeman, but Bryant’s kick to take the game went awry.
The Cardinals scored on their first five possessions of the game and held a 17-point lead before the Falcons rallied.
The Falcons started off well offensively. They won the toss and elected to take the ball.
For the first time this season, they scored a touchdown on their opening drive, mixing in five runs with five passes to cover 80 yards. Ryan tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley to finish the drive.
The Cardinals’ first possession ended with Zane Gonzalez making a 39-yard field goal.
The Falcons’ second drive started at the 40 when the Cardinals kicked the kickoff out of bounds. But the Falcons couldn’t overcome a holding penalty by left guard James Carpenter and delay of game penalty.
The Cardinals benefited from a controversial call on a 58-yard pass play from Murray to wide receiver Damiere Byrd for a 58-yard gain with cornerback Isaiah Oliver in coverage. Ricardo Allen was late getting back over the top to break up the play.
The Falcons threw the review flag on the play as it appeared Byrd fumbled the ball while going to the group. The reception was upheld and Falcons lost a time out.
Two plays later, Murray tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to running back Chase Edmonds.
The Falcons’ third drive was three-and-out with a sack on third down by Corey Peters and Rodney Gunter.
The Cardinals then zipped down the field on plays of 17, 30, 31 before David Johnson slammed into the end zone from a yard out to make it 17-0.
The Falcons and the Cardinals both added field goals to make it 20-10 at halftime.
The Cardinals added a Murray to Maxx Williams touchdown pass on their first possession of the second half. The Falcons added a field goal to make it 27-13 and finally got a defensive stop with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons went on a 10-play, 93-yard drive that was capped when Ryan tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Freeman to make it 27-20.
The defense got another stop and the offense was back in business from their 17-yard line with 14:02 left in the fourth quarter.
Ryan drove the Falcons’ 83-yards over eight plays. He tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Hooper with 10:50 left. Bryant’s extra point tied the game 27-27.
“There is still a lot of football in front of us,” Ryan said. “Clearly, we are not where we want to be at this point.
The Falcons still think they and get on a roll.
“I’ve been on teams that have gone on long win streaks,” Ryan said. “It just takes a play here in a game or a win here to get a little bit of momentum going.
“When it’s going good, you’ve got to ride it. So, I’m certainly optimistic that it can happen, but we have to make it happen. That’s got to be the mindset, that we have to make it happen.”
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