ATLANTA - Getting a career day from Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons finally beat a team outside the anemic NFC South and remained in first place.
For the Arizona Cardinals, a once-comfortable division lead is slipping away.
Jones had a career day, catching 10 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown to keep the Falcons improbably atop their division with a 29-18 victory over the punchless Cardinals on Sunday.
Arizona (9-3) still leads the NFC West after its second straight loss, but now by only one game over defending Super Bowl champion Seattle.
More troubling for the Cardinals, they had gone more than 11 quarters without an offensive touchdown until a meaningless score with just over a minute remaining.
Steven Jackson broke off a 55-yard run - his longest run since 2009 - to set up a touchdown on the Falcons' opening possession.
Jones hauled in a 32-yard scoring pass, and Matt Bryant kicked a career-best five field goals for the Falcons (5-7), who matched New Orleans' 35-32 win at Pittsburgh earlier in the day to stay tied with the Saints. Ryan was 30 of 41 for 361 yards and a pair of TDs.
The Falcons posted their first win outside the division (they are now 1-7) and picked up their first win over a team with a winning record. Atlanta holds a tiebreaker edge over the Saints in the NFL's weakest division.
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said earlier in the week that he was looking forward to going against Jones, claiming he had won the "majority" of the battles going back to their college days in the Southeastern Conference.
Not on this day.
Jones was magnificent, eclipsing his previous career best of 182 yards receiving. His performance was especially timely with the Falcons missing their other top receiver, Roddy White, who was out with an ankle injury.
Falcons 29, Cardinals 18
Arizona 0 10 0 8 – 18
Atlanta 17 3 3 6 – 29
Atl–Toilolo 1 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 11:39.
Atl–FG Bryant 20, 8:13.
Atl–Jones 32 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 5:48.
Ari–Johnson 88 interception return (Catanzaro kick), 14:07.
Ari–FG Catanzaro 44, 2:42.
Atl–FG Bryant 23, :00.
Atl–FG Bryant 21, 6:13.
Atl–FG Bryant 45, 12:35.
Atl–FG Bryant 28, 2:30.
Ari–Taylor 3 pass from Stanton (Taylor run), 1:05.
First downs 18 22
Total Net Yards 329 500
Rushes-yards 11-35 34-142
Passing 294 358
Punt Returns 1-14 2-68
Kickoff Returns 1-18 3-91
Interceptions Ret. 1-88 2-36
Comp-Att-Int 24-39-2 30-41-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 0-0 1-3
Punts 5-48.4 3-53.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-34 9-76
Time of Possession 22:57 37:03
Rushing: Arizona, Grice 5-16, Ellington 5-12, Stanton 1-7. Atlanta, S.Jackson 18-101, Freeman 8-26, Rodgers 4-7, Ryan 3-4, Hester 1-4.
Passing: Arizona, Stanton 24-39-2-294. Atlanta, Ryan 30-41-1-361.
Receiving: Arizona, Ja.Brown 7-75, Floyd 5-53, Ginn Jr. 4-61, Grice 3-24, Jo.Brown 2-40, Carlson 2-38, Taylor 1-3. Atlanta, Jones 10-189, Douglas 9-116, Toilolo 4-15, Rodgers 3-18, Weems 2-9, Hester 1-10, Freeman 1-4.