ATLANTA – There were two cases of déjà vu on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, neither of which were positive for the Cardinals.
Falcons running back Tevin Coleman had a dominant ground outing, looking more like Jamal Anderson of late-90s Dirty Bird lore than a member of the team’s anemic 2018 attack. The other familiar scene was a sullen Cardinals locker room as the players once again searched for answers.
Atlanta was last in the NFL in rushing coming into the game but Coleman had 11 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown in the 40-14 win. The Falcons finished with 215 yards on the ground and averaged 8.0 yards per carry.
“When you see how they’ve been not able to run the ball, and then they come in here and that happens – it’s very frustrating,” linebacker Haason Reddick said. “We’ve got to rally back together and try to figure this thing out.”
The Cardinals had some high-profile run defense issues earlier this season but ironed them out enough to enter the game in the middle of the pack in yards per carry allowed. They will drop back down after Coleman’s dominant showing, which included an early 65-yard scamper, a 43-yard touchdown run and another long score that was called back for an illegal block.
The holes were big for Coleman and missed tackles also contributed. Defensive end Markus Golden was asked if effort could have played a role in the issues once the score became lopsided.
“That better not be it,” Golden said. “It better not be anybody giving up or quitting. That ain’t who we are. That ain’t what we do.”
The Cardinals were aware of Atlanta’s previous ground struggles and were hoping to make them continue. Even though quarterback Matt Ryan has put up big numbers this season, the lack of a running game was a big reason why the Falcons entered with just four wins.
The plan to make the Falcons one-dimensional never materialized.
“They struggled the last couple of weeks running the football, and we knew what they were going to do in the passing game,” coach Steve Wilks said. “We’ve got to do a much better job. All that starts with me.”
While Wilks took responsibility for the blowout loss multiple times, Golden felt like it came down to execution.
“The coaches are coaching us up to do our job,” Golden said. “We aren’t getting out there and doing our job, finishing plays off like we need to. For the coaches, man. Those guys come in and put in a lot of work. We’ve got to do our job better. This run defense, this game, it’s on us.”
AMERSON, BARKSDALE SUFFER INJURIES
Cornerback David Amerson took a hit to the head early in the game and never returned. He is being evaluated for a possible concussion, Wilks said. Former third-round pick Brandon Williams took over as the No. 2 cornerback for the rest of the game.
Recently-signed cornerbacks Quinten Rollins and Dontae Johnson were both inactive. Wilks wanted to reserve comment on Williams’ performance until after he watches the tape.
Right tackle Joe Barksdale left the game in the waning minutes, also with a possible concussion, Wilks said. Will Holden took his place the rest of the way.
Images from the Week 15 contest in Atlanta