3rd-stringer Snelling leads Falcons to 41-7 rout

BY foxsports • September 20, 2010

When Jerious Norwood left the field on a cart, then Michael Turner hobbled over to the sideline with a sore groin, the Atlanta Falcons were down to their third-string running back.

Sure couldn't tell it.

Jason Snelling played like a star.

Snelling rushed for 129 yards, caught five passes and scored three touchdowns to power the Falcons to a 41-7 rout of the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

''When you get your chance, you want to take advantage of it,'' he said. ''I always prepare like I'm going to be the starter.''

With the replacement back running hard and Matt Ryan matching a career high with three touchdowns passes, the Falcons offense bounced back from a sluggish preseason and being held without a touchdown in a Week 1 loss at Pittsburgh.

''We spread the ball around pretty good today, and that's what we needed,'' tight end Tony Gonzalez said. ''We needed to have that game today for our confidence, just to show everybody what we can do.''

Now, the Falcons (1-1) can look toward a huge early season game against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, next Sunday in the Big Easy.

''We're going to enjoy it tonight, because wins are very hard to come by in this league,'' said Ryan, who was 21 of 32 for 225 yards. ''Tomorrow, we get back to work.''

Snelling carried 24 times, scoring on runs of 1 and 7 yards to go along with a 19-yard touchdown catch. In all, he totaled 186 yards.

''I'm a little tired,'' said Snelling, managing a weak grin. ''Coach is always telling us to focus because we never know when our chance might come.''

Roddy White caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ryan that got the Falcons rolling less than 5 minutes into the game. Ryan finished off Arizona (1-1) with a 12-yard TD to Brian Finneran early in the third quarter, set up by Derek Anderson's second interception.

Arizona had done some of its best work away from the desert, winning seven of its last nine road games. But the Cardinals were totally outmatched in this one other than Tim Hightower's 80-yard touchdown, tied for the third-longest run in franchise history.

The Falcons finished with a commanding 444-267 advantage in total yards. Perhaps the most telling number was third-down conversions: Atlanta was 11 of 17, the Cardinals were 0 for 8.

''This was a wake-up call for us,'' Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. ''The way we played today is not acceptable. We have a lot of changes to make on both offense and defense.''

Turner did some good work before he was sidelined in the second quarter. He piled up 75 yards on just nine carries - an 8.3-yard average - and looked much like the runner who ranked second in the NFL two years ago than the guy who managed just 42 yards against Pittsburgh.

Turner could have returned - he was jogging on the sideline - but there was no need to go back in with a big lead and Snelling running so well. Norwood came back to the bench on crutches, but the Falcons released no further details about their injury plagued backup.

The Atlanta defense wasn't too shabby, other than the one big play. Christopher Owens had an interception, while William Moore and Dominique Franks both came up with their first career picks. First-round pick Sean Weatherspoon swooped in on Anderson for his first career sack, as well.

Anderson had a brutal day, going 17-of-31 for 161 yards and a 42.5 rating after leading a win at St. Louis in the first game of the post-Kurt Warner era.

Max Hall took over at quarterback in the closing minutes and threw Arizona's third interception of the day, which was returned by Franks to the Arizona 5. The Falcons finally backed off, having Ryan kneel four times.

The Cardinals couldn't do anything right.

LaRod Stephens-Howling returned a kickoff 98 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a holding penalty on Dockett wiped it out. Then, with the Cardinals trailing 34-7, Stephens-Howling caught a kickoff deep in his own end zone, started to run it out, then tried to take a knee but had a toe on the goal line. He had to bring it out and got bowled over at the 2.

Arizona's frustration boiled over late in the game when Kerry Rhodes jumped up to complain about a call, bumped an official and was ejected.

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