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Arizona Cardinals

Updated Oct 25, 2013 - 9:17 am

Behind Enemy Lines: Atlanta Falcons

The Arizona Cardinals are reeling after two straight divisional losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

After it's 34-22 loss to Seattle on national television, the team has come under fire in recent days for its poor quarterback play, porous pass protection along the offensive line and underachieving run game.

And sadly for Bruce Arians' squad the road ahead doesn't exactly ease up.

Although the Cardinals have 11 days in between their Week 7 and Week 8 contests, the Atlanta Falcons come to town Sunday and are starting to round into familiar form.

Despite being hampered by injuries to star receiver Julio Jones and Roddy White, the Falcons had no problem dispatching of the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 31-23 victory Sunday.

While Mike Smith and Co. come to Glendale sporting a disappointing 2-4 record, there are still just a season removed from playing in the NFC Championship Game.

Friday, October 25

Double Coverage: Falcons at Cardinals (

When the schedule came out in April, the Cardinals-Falcons duel in the desert looked like it could be pivotal for both. And it could still be, but not for the reasons they originally thought.

At 3-4, Arizona is vying for a win before its bye week. Atlanta, on the other hand, is a week removed from its bye and comes in at 2-4.

Audibles another strength in Ryan's game (

Of all the aspects that made Matt Ryan's performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday so special, one impressed offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter more than anything else. And it wasn't Ryan's career-best 148.4 passer rating.

Koetter pointed to a play in the second quarter, when Ryan hit a streaking Harry Douglas for a 37-yard score.

Falcons' Jackson gets more practice reps (

Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson, who returned to practice for the first time since Week 2 on Wednesday, got an increased workload on Thursday coming off a hamstring injury.

4 key matchups: Gonzalez vs. Abraham is the headliner (

Cardinals OLB John Abraham vs. Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez: Abraham, much like the Falcons are doing with Osi Umenyiora, is functioning as hybrid defensive end/linebacker. Gonzalez will be used at times to help chip block on Abraham in a battle royale of the 37-year-old Gonzalez and 35-year-old. Abraham also drops in to coverage at times and could have Gonzalez roaming through his zone.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan tossed a career-high 5 interceptions in last meeting with Cardinals (

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown 88 straight passes without an interception. His last interception came in the New England game when he was picked off by cornerback Aqib Talib. However, Ryan threw a career-high five interceptions in the 23-19 win over the Cardinals on Nov. 18, 2011. He was the victim of a couple of tipped passes.

Falcons RB Steven Jackson takes 'almost a full load' at practice (

Falcons running back Steven Jackson, who's attempting to come back from a hamstring injury, took "almost a full load" at practice Thursday, according to head coach Mike Smith.

Gonzalez proud of backup players (

Being without several marquee players last game meant the backup players had no choice but to step up, and Tony Gonzalez is proud of them for doing just that and hopes they can continue that moving forward in the season.

Davis, WRs focused on just doing their jobs (

Drew Davis was among those involved and although he caught only one pass, it was a big one. With the Falcons hanging on to a 24-17 lead, Ryan connected with Davis late in the third quarter for a 24-yard completion to get the Falcons across midfield. The catch itself was one that some will say was one of the best of the season. With a defender on him, Davis grabbed the pass with one hand, the kind of stunt catch Julio Jones is famous for.

Thursday, October 24

Falcons to face Lions in London in 2014 (

The NFL announced Thursday that the Falcons will face Calvin Johnson and Detroit Lions at Wembley Stadium in 2014. It is one of three games in London along with the Jaguars-Cowboys and Raiders-Dolphins.

Falcons offensive line still has a lot to prove (

True, the line kept quarterback Matt Ryan relatively clean while not allowing a sack. But it wasn't as if the line came up with some exotic new blocking scheme to enjoy more success. Plus Ryan helped his own cause by working out of the shotgun and stepping up to avoid pressure.

Babineaux in a rush to improve production (

"That's my daily motivation: I don't have any sacks right now," Babineaux said. "I know I can get back there and get pressure. It's all good. But it's better when you have sacks."

Falcons RB Steven Jackson plans to play vs. Cardinals (

ON HOW HE FEELS: "Good. Going to get out there this afternoon and see how it feels and just go from there, being mindful that the game is Sunday and now Wednesday.. Looking forward to it."

Mike Nolan is not Afraid to be Frank about his Defense's Inadequacies (The Falcoholic)

Mike Nolan had some very frank things to say about his defense today. Yikes!

He talked in detail about specific ways the Falcons can improve on defense. OK, fair enough, I'm all ears. I'm entirely open to that discussion. But wait, he took it one step further. He publicly criticized some defensive players. Not just rookies, not Thomas Decoud, who admittedly may deserve it; he criticized two of his best players. Not what you'd expect from a coach who doesn't generally throw himself or his players under the figurative bus.

Wednesday, October 23

Falcons need another mega-win streak to make playoffs (

The Falcons went on a 8-0 run to open the 2012 season on their way to the NFC title game. If they can muster another eight-game winning streak they would virtually wrap up their fifth playoff berth over the past six seasons.

How Falcons and Cardinals match up (

You can see how the teams match up historically by selecting a season in the pulldown.

Changes are good for Falcons' defense (

No more shying away from using young players. No more of coordinator Mike Nolan trying to talk to his players from the press-box level. And no more playing it safe on third downs.

Nolan not pleased with D's performance yet (

Sure, the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator saw positive signs from his young players during a Week 7 win over Tampa Bay. At the same time, Nolan had a close-up view from the sideline of the issues that needed to be corrected.

Thomas Howard will have role for Falcons (

"He's a guy that can play both SAM and WILL and will give us a lot of flexibility in terms of putting together our game-day roster," head coach Mike Smith said.

Wing Tips: Falcons at Cardinals (

The 2-4 Falcons travel to Arizona to face the 3-4 Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 8. Here are some facts and tidbits about the matchup:

Falcons Playoff Picture: The NFC Through Seven Weeks (The Falcoholic)

The Atlanta Falcons were left for dead just a week ago by many, which made some sense given the relative strength of the NFC and the team's 1-4 record. A week later, everything has changed.

Mike Nolan may coach from the sideline going forward (The Falcoholic)

You may have seen Mike Nolan on the sideline during Sunday's victory against the Buccaneers. By all accounts, we should expect to see more of the same going forward.

Tuesday, October 22


Finally, the Falcons moved up in the rankings, jumping three steps to No. 20 following Sunday's 31-23 triumph over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Falcons sign veteran linebacker Howard (

The 30-year-old Howard, a former second-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders back in 2006, has 78 career starts from his five seasons in Raiders and two seasons in Cincinnati. He started one game for the Bengals last season before tearing his ACL in practice.

Young Falcons get chance along D-line (

During last Sunday's 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Smith and the coaching staff increased the playing time of rookie defensive ends Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga. Goodman played 35 defensive snaps while Maponga, with just one snap in three previous games while being inactive the first two games, played 21 snaps.

Falcons Going Back to D-Line Rotation (

In previous years, head coach Mike Smith's defensive line rotation was nearly famous for rendering the traditional view of "starter" up front obsolete. It really didn't matter who made up the front four on the first defensive snap of the game because it would constantly change throughout a game.

To start the 2013 season, the Falcons had to go away from that strategy a bit, for two very big reasons: Injuries and youth.

3 Subplots for Falcons (2-4) at Cardinals (3-4) (

After snapping a three-game losing streak with a 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay last Sunday, the Falcons (2-4) travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals (3-4) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Monday, October 21

Injury bug can't bite Matt Ryan (

A couple of Matt Ryan's fellow quarterbacks around the league -- Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler -- suffered significant injuries in Week 7. Bradford's was a season-ending ACL injury as the Rams lost to the Panthers, while a groin injury knocked Cutler from the Bears' loss to the Redskins.

Ryan should be on high alert simply based on how injuries have decimated the Falcons through the first six games. They've lost top receiver Julio Jones to a season-ending foot injury, while running back Steven Jackson has been out since Week 2 with a hamstring injury. Not to mention Roddy White (hamstring, ankle), who missed the first game of his career on Sunday.

Nolan's move seemed to help Falcons (

Falcons head coach Mike Smith hinted some changes would be made coming off the bye week although he remained coy about what those adjustments would be.

The one that might have had the biggest impact on Sunday's game was moving defensive coordinator Mike Nolan from the coaching box down to the field. It's a concept the Falcons used in the past, but it obviously injected some life into the defense.

Douglas gives Falcons plenty to talk about (

Harry Douglas promised he wouldn't try to be Superman. Well, one could have mistaken his red jersey for a red cape Sunday afternoon.

The Atlanta Falcons receiver knew he needed to step up with Julio Jones out for the season following foot surgery and Roddy White sidelined by hamstring and ankle injuries. All Douglas did was respond with a career-high 149 receiving yards on seven catches against a porous Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense in his team's 31-23 win.

Falcons RB Jackson to return to practice (

Falcons running back Steven Jackson is set to return to practice on Wednesday, coach Mike Smith said on Monday.

Jackson has been out with a hamstring injury since Sept. 15. He suffered the injury in the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2 of the season.

The Falcons find a pass rush; Matt Ryan finds a target (

The Falcons entered with 11 sacks on the season, 27th-most in a 32-team league. They managed three this day - most notably strong safety William Moore's forced fumble on Tampa Bay's first possession, free safety Thomas DeCoud returning it 30 yards to score - and were credited with five quarterback hits.

To accommodate the blitzes, the Falcons left their cornerbacks in much man-to-man coverage, and only Vincent Jackson (10 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns) was able to exploit it. Even so, Jackson grew so frustrated that he drew a grabbing-the-face-mask penalty against Asante Samuel with the Bucs in goal-to-go mode late in the fourth quarter.

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