ATLANTA — Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons can forget about any style points.
This one was downright ugly.
That’s OK with them. It’s still a victory.
Bouncing back from their first loss of the season and overcoming Ryan’s career-worst five interceptions, the Falcons rallied past Arizona 23-19 on Sunday. Michael Turner scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 6:40 remaining, and Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t hang on to a fourth-down pass that would’ve given the feeble Cardinals a chance to pull it out.
“You can’t worry about it,” said Ryan, who had never thrown more than three picks in a game. “Part of playing this position is knowing there are going to be times when you make mistakes, when you fall flat on your face. You’ve got to get up and keep playing, keep throwing it. In those kind of situations, I’m just worried about the next play.”
Ryan became the first quarterback since Green Bay’s Bart Starr in 1967 to win a game despite throwing five interceptions with no touchdowns, according to STATS LLC.
“That’s good company to be in,” Ryan said with a chuckle.
The Falcons (9-1) turned it over a total of six times, but Ryan set up Turner’s winning run with four completions for 64 yards, including a 9-yarder to Tony Gonzalez that was just short of the end zone. Turner scored on the next play.
Coming off a bye, Arizona (4-6) lost its sixth straight game. The Cardinals tried to bolster their anemic offense by switching quarterbacks, replacing John Skelton with rookie Ryan Lindley, but they had only 178 yards.
“We said during the bye week we were going to make changes that we thought necessary, and that’s what we’re going to do going forward,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We have to make more plays.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the second half. The Cardinals had the only points — going ahead 19-16 on Jay Feely’s fourth field goal of the game, set up by Ryan’s fourth interception — before the Falcons finally came alive on a 70-yard drive.
With Julio Jones sidelined by an ankle injury, Ryan completed an 11-yard pass to third receiver Harry Douglas, then a 26-yarder to Douglas into Arizona territory. Roddy White hauled in an 18-yard pass before Ryan, on third-and-5 at the Arizona 10, went to ol’ reliable. Gonzalez grabbed the pass and stretched for the goal line, getting his helmet knocked off in the process.
The officials ruled him down about a foot short. Turner carried it in from there, standing defiantly in the end zone in front of the cheering Atlanta fans who had booed him earlier for the Falcons‘ continuing problems running the ball.
On fourth-and-2 with just over 3 minutes remaining, Lindley threw a pass that Fitzgerald appeared to haul in at the 5 before tumbling out of bounds. But as he took a hit from William Moore, Fitzgerald rolled over and the ball came loose. The Falcons took over and ran out the clock.