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Arizona Cardinals' defense dominates Atlanta Falcons

The Arizona Cardinals aren't one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams in the NFL. They are one of the most improved.

Sunday's 27-13 victory over a hurting Atlanta Falcons team was the most complete effort Arizona put together all year. After losing 11 of their last 12 games in 2012, the Cardinals have started this season at 4-4.

They continue to have one of the most underrated defenses in football. The return of Steven Jackson didn't remotely help the Falcons, who rushed for 27 yards as a team. (Matt Ryan had more yards than Jackson, who finished with six yards on 11 carries.) The Cardinals picked off Ryan four times, and they didn't give up big plays.

Get used to the Cardinals remaining on the outskirts for a wild card spot for a while. They have a bye week, and then face the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars after the break.

Here's what else we learned:

1. Coach Bruce Arians might want to re-think his limited snap plan for Andre Ellington. With Rashard Mendenhall out, Ellington took advantage of his first career start to rush for 154 yards on 15 carries. He created an 80-yard touchdown on a play that looked bottled up. Wideout Michael Floyd, who made a nice touchdown grab, helped spring Ellington loose with a block.

2. The Falcons' season is all but over at 2-5. There are too many good teams in the NFC and the Falcons have a brutal schedule coming up. They have one of the worst defenses in the league and applied very little pressure on Carson Palmer. All-time Falcons sack leader John Abraham, playing for the Cardinals, was better than any Atlanta pass rusher.

3. The Cardinals put together one of the best defensive performances of the season. They hit Ryan 11 times. They had 12 passes defensed and eight tackles for loss. Daryl Washington has been one of the best defenders in football since he returned from suspension. Karlos Dansby is playing like a new man. Tyrann Mathieu, Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett all had great games.

4. Arizona has intercepted Matt Ryan nine times in the last two times they've faced him. 

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