Posted: Sunday December 26, 1999 07:52 PM
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Byron Hanspard rushed for a career-high 102 yards and Bob Christian ran for two touchdowns as the Atlanta Falcons eliminated the Arizona Cardinals from the playoffs with a 37-14 victory.
Hanspard, who was Jamal Anderson's backup in his first two seasons, carried 26 times in his first career 100-yard rushing game. His one-yard run capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive and gave the Falcons a 27-14 lead with 4:39 left in the third quarter.
Hanspard was inactive in Atlanta's last two games.
"I told him earlier in the week we would just see how he did in practice," said Atlanta coach Dan Reeves about Hanpard. "You could see he has great explosion. He can accelerate and make something out of nothing."
Christian had a one-yard TD with 4:39 left in the second quarter and burst through the middle for a 33-yard score that gave Atlanta (4-11) a 34-14 advantage just under five minutes into the fourth. Christian had a career-best 54 yards on nine rushes. The Falcons outgained the Cardinals on the ground, 163-77.
"We saw on the film that a lot of times they like to bring their linebackers and they had six men crowding the line and they are blitzing," Christian said. "That makes it tough to throw the ball or run too many other plays. But a quick trap like that right up the middle can work. It was just a great play and the guys up front did a great job. I didn't get touched, it was like a wind sprint."
Chris Chandler completed 14-of-23 passes for 230 yards for the defending NFC champion Falcons. He threw a 23-yard pass to Terance Mathis that put Atlanta ahead, 7-0, 8:01 into the game.
Jake Plummer (6-9) was 15-of-27 for 217 yards and a pair of interceptions for Arizona (6-9), which lost its third straight game. The Cardinals were trying to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1974-75.
"We ran out of chances at the end of this year," said Arizona coach Vince Tobin. "We had a lot of chances at the end of this year and we couldn't capitalize on them. We also ran out of bodies in the second half of this ballgame. I'm disappointed because obviously we had an oppportunity. If we could win this game to go to Green Bay next week and be playing for something.
It is very disappointing."
Morten Anderson kicked three field goals for the Falcons. His 28-yard field goal gave Atlanta a 17-14 lead with 42 seconds left in the second. Safety Gerald McBurrows then intercepted Plummer and had a 23-yard return and Chandler completed two passes before Anderson kicked a 24-yard field goal as time ran out to make it 20-14.
After taking the kickoff in the third quarter Atlanta kept Arizona's offense on the sideline, taking 10:21 on its scoring drive. The Falcons had only one play go for more than nine yards on the drive, Chandler's 16-yard pass to rookie Eugene Baker which came right before Hanspard's score.
"It's very disappointing," Plummer said. "We matched them in the first half. Then we had the dumb, well bad interception that gave them momentum going onto the half. Offensively we didn't get the ball back until way into the third quarter. We had our chances and we let it slip away."
Baker also had a 36-yard reception that set up Anderson's 41-yard field goal with 3:03 remaining.
Mario Bates had a one-yard TD run to cap Arizona's 13-play, 86-yard drive and tie the score, 14-14, 40 seconds into the second quarter. Another one-yard run by Bates gave the Cardinals a 14-7 lead with eight and a half minutes left in the second.
Bates had 39 yards on 14 rushes.
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