PLAYER OF THE GAME: While there were several standouts in Sunday's 29-18 win over Arizona, none flew higher than wide receiver Julio Jones. With veteran Roddy White inactive due to an ankle injury, it was Jones' game to step up and he did, delivering on 10 receptions for a career-high 189 yards receiving with one touchdown.
"We were just hitting (on offense). Steven (Jackson) did a great job in the run game and today we hit on all of our shot plays," Jones said. "We got them back on their heels and they didn't know what was going to come next. We were able to take advantage of that."
PLAY OF THE GAME: The fourth quarter hasn't been kind to the Falcons in 2014, but everything was turned on its head Sunday, including a clutch moment with a chance to put the gamne away. Down by 16 points, Arizona was looking to drive for a much-needed score when Falcons cornerback Josh Wilson stepped in front of a Drew Stanton pass and made the interception. The play led to the Falcons turning around an 11-play, 44-yard offensive drive that ended with a Matt Bryant field goal that all but put the game out of reach.
It's a battle of the birds at the Georgia Dome as the Atlanta Falcons take on the Arizona Cardinals. Check out these photos of gameday.
TURNING POINT: The Falcons were up 17-7 in the second quarter when safety William Moore announced his return by forcing a fumble on a Malcolm Floyd reception, which was recovered by Desmond Trufant. The Falcons had just given up a pick-six and stalled on the ensuing offensive drive when the Cardinals took over again and looked to get within a score. That turnover may not have turned into points, but it continued to feed a confident defense that would carry the Falcons through the second half.
INJURY ROUNDUP: Trufant left the game near the end of the first half with an announced neck injury, but returned during the second half and played the rest of the game. ... Defensive end Stansly Maponga left the game in the second quarter with a right elbow injury and did not return.
FIRST PLACE AGAIN: Just before kickoff in Atlanta, the New Orleans Saints put the finishing touches on a 35-32 win over Pittsburgh to move into sole possession of first place in the NFC South. Needing Sunday's win over the Cardinals to move back into first by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints, some Falcons knew what was at stake, some didn't.
"We had the game on earlier in here (the locker room), but we really didn't finish the game," defensive end Jonathan Babineaux said. "We're in control. We don't care about what anybody else does. As long as we do the things that we need to do in this locker room, we'll be all right."
JONES ON PETERSON: During the week of preparation, Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson and Jones were jawing a bit back and forth in the media. Peterson said he considers himself the top cornerback in the league and wants to prove himself against No. 1 receivers. He got the Falcons' No. 2 in Jones on Sunday and Jones put together an impressive, career day.
"Supposedly, Pat said he won the majority of the battles between me and him," Jones said after the game. "I just took it upon myself to get the proper rest and made sure timing and everything was down with Matt. Just kept working, kept working."
FIVE WEEKS THE CHARM?: In the past five games, the Falcons feel like they've started to put something together. Never mind losses to Detroit in London or last week at home to Cleveland. There were still positives in those games that the Falcons were able to build on, and they feel it's starting to show with three wins during the stretch.
Perhaps it's the fact that the offensive line hasn't had any personnel changes in the past five games, or that the bye week gave them a boost they'd need. Whatever it is, the team is buying into the fact that it was just a matter of time before things would kick in.
"We've been through some ups and downs this year and I think that kind of brings you together, because you just realize that we've got each other," right tackle Ryan Schraeder said. "It's real cliche to say, but when you can put your trust in other guys and make plays and you believe in the guys next to you, it just helps."
THIRTY-FIVE GAMES THE CHARM?: It had been 35 games since the Falcons had a 100-yard rusher when Jackson eclipsed the mark in the fourth quarter Sunday. Against the top-ranked defense against the rush, the Falcons were able to put it together in the run game to give the Cardinals their first 100-yard rusher this season.
Jackson said after the game he wasn't aware that it had been 35 games since any Falcons running back put up 100 yards.
"We're glad to get that out of the way," Jackson said. "Now we want to start our own streak of being effective runners — not only myself, but the other guys in the room with me."