The Falcons snapped a five-game losing streak by doing exactly what they've talked about doing all season on both sides of the ball. The offense was balanced with a dynamic and explosive rushing attack while the defense created turnovers and consistent pressure. It's come in spurts this season, but Falcons have shown what they want to be. Despite struggles with consistency during this recent slide, the team was able to execute at the desired – and expected – level for much of the game on Sunday.
Things got off to a bit of an inauspicious start though.
Atlanta's opening possession was stalled by a procedural penalty that wiped out a third-down conversion and Arizona answered with an eight-play touchdown drive. Following the Cardinals' score, the Falcons went three-and-out with Matt Ryan getting sacked on third-and-10.
Every week, coach Quinn asks his team, who is going to "set it off." It can be an individual player, position group, coach, or fans. Who is going to be the one to get things going for the Falcons?
On Sunday, the Falcons saw two players set things off. First, it was Deion Jones. The Pro Bowl linebacker picked off a pass that was tipped by Vic Beasley and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown.
Jones covered 59.18 total yards and reached a top speed of 19.10 mph on the play, the second-fastest speed reached by any Falcon defender this season. The pass was intended for running back David Johnson and was actually a pretty safe one for Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen. The short pass to the flat had an 82.4 percent completion probability and while it traveled 18.6 yards in the air, Jones intercepted it roughly one-half yard behind the line of scrimmage.
Not to be outdone by Jones, running back Tevin Coleman set things off for the offense with a career-long 65-yard run that set up a chip-shot field goal for Matt Bryant. Coleman's run was the longest by a Falcon since Devonta Freeman broke a 75-yard touchdown run against New Orleans in the 2016 regular-season finale. The fourth-year player covered a total of 85.49 yards making it the Falcons longest play of the season – topping Calvin Ridley's 81.79 yards on his 75-yard touchdown catch against New Orleans in Week 3.
The combination of Coleman's raw speed and the precise execution of his blockers illustrated the challenge of stopping outside zone runs and gave Atlanta a 17-7 lead that they never looked back from. The Falcons broke the huddle with Ryan under center, Coleman in the backfield, Julio Jones lined up wide left, and tight end Eric Saubert and Mohamed Sanu aligned tight to the right. Prior to the snap, Paulsen motioned to the right to give the Falcons a trio of blockers to that side.
As Coleman secured the pitch and raced for the line of scrimmage, Saubert blocked Markus Golden while Sanu and tackle Ty Sambrailo sealed off Budda Baker and Brandon Williams. This opened a massive running lane for Coleman, who hit the line of scrimmage 2.96 seconds after the snap at 17.96 mph. He accelerated through the hole to reach a top speed of 20.41 mph – the seventh time this season he has eclipsed 20 mph.
Coleman was tracked down by Tre Boston and Antoine Bethea inside the Cardinals' 30-yard line, but he was able to cut back inside avoiding the would-be tacklers and adding an additional 20 yards to the run before eventually being brought down.
The former Indiana Hoosier broke off another explosive run in the third quarter, this time taking an inside handoff 43 yards for a touchdown. Coleman covered 59.22 total yards on the play and reached a max speed of 20.29 mph, his second highest top speed on a touchdown this season.
While his first big run was all about raw speed, the 43-yard touchdown highlighted his patience, vision, and acceleration. Line up in the backfield as the lone running back, Coleman took the handoff to the left and cut back to the inside as Jake Matthews and Alex Mack sealed off Chandler Jones and Corey Peters. Coleman hit the line of scrimmage 2.42 seconds after the snap at 11.76 mph and quickly began knifing his way through the defense as Wes Schweitzer, Zane Beadles, and Sambrailo all made their blocks on the second level.
Once Coleman worked his way through the traffic he hit the gas, running past Bethea and into the end zone for his third rushing score of the season. He finished the game with a career-high 145 yards on 11 carries, eclipsing 100 rushing yards for the third time as a pro and the second time this season. Coleman logged 70 yards and one touchdown on six carries to the left and 72 yards on four carries to the right. He averaged 21.1 yards per play and covered a total of 695.94 yards on 33 offensive snaps.