Falcons ground Cards
Atlanta's 37-14 victory ends Arizona's playoff hopes
Posted: Sunday December 26, 1999 05:47 PM
Arizona tight end Terry Hardy drags Atlanta's Gerald McBurrows for a couple of extra yards before going down. AP
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Arizona Cardinals won't be going back to the playoffs. On Sunday, every reason for their downfall was on display against the hapless Atlanta Falcons.
Needing a victory to keep alive their postseason hopes, the Cardinals instead were eliminated by a 37-14 loss to the Falcons, who took advantage of Arizona's glaring weaknesses.
Time of possession? The Cardinals, who ranked 30th in that category, held the ball only 24 minutes, 40 seconds. The Falcons pulled away with a tedious touchdown drive that consumed more than 10 minutes of the third quarter.
Stopping the run? The Falcons piled up a season-high 163 yards against the league's next-to-worst rushing defense. Atlanta, which has struggled without All-Pro Jamal Anderson, had a back go over 100 yards for the first time this season when Byron Hanspard rushed for 102.
Lack of offense? The Cardinals did nothing to improve their No. 30 ranking, managing only 289 yards and costing themselves a touchdown with an offensive pass interference penalty.
"It doesn't matter who else won or lost in our division," linebacker Rob Fredrickson said. "It's over for us."
The Cardinals (6-9) reached the NFC semifinals last season, but were knocked out of this year's playoff race with their third straight loss.
"You usually don't get more than one opportunity in life," Arizona coach Vince Tobin said. "We basically got three. But we didn't capitalize, who was benched after fumbling twice last week against Tennessee.
In the opening minute of the final period, the Cardinals were stopped when Jake Plummer's fourth-and-10 pass at the Atlanta 40 was broken up by Buchanan.
The Falcons went the other way, and facing third-and-10 at the Arizona 33, gave the ball to Christian on a draw. He found a gaping hole and didn't stop running until reaching the end zone, giving the Falcons a 34-14 lead with 10:06 remaining and effectively ending the Cardinals' season.
Christian, a devoutly religious man, scored on an audible dubbed "Moses" in the Falcons playbook.
"Moses parted the Red Sea," Christian said. "That play works the same way. It was easy on my part. All I had to do was run and hope I didn't get caught."
Plummer threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to David Boston with 8:19 remaining, but Johnny McWilliams was called for offensive pass interference some 15 yards away. The Cardinals wound up being stopped again on downs.
Arizona's first-quarter troubles continued when Atlanta grabbed a 7-0 lead on Chandler's 23-yard touchdown pass to Terance Mathis. They took advantage of two critical penalties, including a pass-interference call against Corey Chavous that kept the drive alive.
Arizona went ahead on two 1-yard touchdown runs by Mario Bates in the second quarter before Atlanta drew even on Christian's 1-yard plunge on fourth down with 4:39 remaining in the half.
The Falcons went ahead for good on Andersen's 28-yard field goal with 42 seconds remaining. Arizona decided not to run out the clock and wound up regretting it.
Gerald McBurrows intercepted Plummer's pass and returned 23 yards, leading to Andersen's 24-yard field goal as time ran out.
Notes: Atlanta's Chuck Smith was called for two major penalties on one play in the first quarter. First, he hit Plummer in the back after the whistle, resulting in unnecessary roughness. Then, when Smith removed his helmet to argue the call, he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. ... Arizona has been outscored 111-19 in the first quarter. ... Tim Dwight, who had missed the past two games for Atlanta, caught four passes and returned three punts in his return. ... Frank Sanders caught three passes for 106 yards for the Cardinals.
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