*AtlantaFalcons.com managing editor Jay Adams brings you his five takeaways immediately after Sunday's 41-7 home opener win over the visiting Arizona Cardinals. Matt Ryan was surgical in his dissection of the Cardinals' defense, and Jason Snelling exploded for 3 touchdowns, 129 yards rushing and another 57 through the air. *
The real Fast Five
The Falcons came out blazing on offense, devouring real estate during a 9-play 70 yard opening drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White. The Falcons picked up five first downs on the first drive of the ballgame. Compare that to the 13 all game against Pittsburgh. I'd say the offense is back on track.
Jason Snelling was on fire when forced to shoulder the running game load with Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood going down with injuries. The four-year veteran saw significant time last year when Turner was injured for several weeks, and the experience really showed Sunday against Arizona. Snelling finished with 24 carries for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns and also caught 5 passes for 57 yards and another score. Injury Update: Coach Smith characterized Michael Turner's groin injury as "not too serious" after the game but admitted he had yet to speak with the training staff for a more definitive update. The severity of Norwood's knee injury is unknown; Coach Smith expected a status update on Monday.
Atlanta shut down the Cardinals offense early with a couple of big turnovers. Cornerback Chris Owens came up with a big interception early in the first half, and then safety William Moore, who started in place of the injured Erik Coleman, snagged one of his own on a tipped pass that occurred on just the second play from scrimmage in the second half. The Falcons were only able to get six points off of the picks, but they shut down crucial drives for the Cardinals and never let them get into an offensive rhythm.
Touchdown drought over
As the score indicates, the Falcons were able to find the end zone early and often during Sunday's game, ending a four-quarter streak of no touchdowns from last week's game against Pittsburgh. The Falcons' offense worked so well that, even with both Turner and Norwood going down with injuries early in the game (Norwood was hurt on the opening kickoff), the unit was still able to function at a very high level.
Defense stout again
One of the coaching staff's stated goals heading into the 2010 season was to limit opponents' third down conversions. So far, so good. The Falcons defense didn't allow a single third down conversion in the game (on 8 tries), and through two weeks they're only yielding 4 third down conversions in 22 attempts - a miniscule 18 percent. To put that in perspective, the Falcons' offense converted 11 of 17 third down conversions this afternoon. And much like last week, with the exception of one big play, the defense held strong and was able to keep an opposing offense in check. The Cardinals offensive output for the day was primarily limited to Tim Hightower's 80-yard touchdown run early in the game. Without that one play, he would have struggled to reach the 100-yard mark for the game. The Cardinals also had a rough go of it in the passing game. Along with the two interceptions, the Falcons' secondary showed a lot of poise in preventing the big play through the air. The Falcons have allowed just 16 points in 8 regulation quarters of football - a phenomenal start for Brian Vangorder's young, opportunistic squad.