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Cardinals Seek To End Losing Streak Against Similar Falcons

Blough to get start at quarterback against Atlanta rookie Ridder

Jonathan Ledbetter (93), Dennis Gardeck (45) and Ezekiel Turner (47) celebrate a play last week against the Buccaneers.
Jonathan Ledbetter (93), Dennis Gardeck (45) and Ezekiel Turner (47) celebrate a play last week against the Buccaneers.

Neither the Arizona Cardinals nor the Atlanta Falcons are where they had hoped to be when the regular season began some four months ago.

Injuries and poor play have derailed each of their years and as a result, both teams find themselves at the bottom of their respective divisions in the NFC; the Cardinals in the West and the Falcons in the South.

Once upon a time, each team sported a five-hundred record. Recently, however, the losses have greatly outnumbered the wins.

The Cardinals (4-11) are in the middle of a season-long five-game losing streak and have lost seven of eight overall. The Falcons (5-10) are mired in their own season-long skid. They have dropped four straight and six of seven overall.

That is the backdrop for their Week 17 meeting in Atlanta on Sunday, the first day of 2023.

The Cardinals have not won a game since mid-November, when Colt McCoy quarterbacked a 27-17 victory at the Los Angeles Rams.

McCoy was expected to be back under center after missing last week with a concussion. He had cleared concussion protocol but was officially ruled out after suffering concussion symptoms after practice on Thursday.

Enter David Blough, who becomes the Cardinals' fourth different quarterback to start a game this season and the fourth in as many weeks.

"I just want to prove I can operate, score some points and then have a chance to win the football game at the end of the game," he said.

Blough signed with the Cardinals Dec. 14 and now will be making his first start since 2019. The Falcons defense ranks in the bottom third of most statistical categories, though their pass defense has improved in recent weeks. Only once in the past six games have they allowed an opponent to throw for more than 200 yards.

One way to counter that defense is for the Cardinals to get the ball into the hands of their No. 1 playmaker, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hopkins had just one catch for four yards even though he was targeted 10 times by then-starter Trace McSorley.

The one catch by Hopkins marked a career-low with the Cardinals and his fewest in a game since 2016. The question is whether Hopkins plays, given a knee issue that cropped up on Friday.

"We've got great playmakers here, incredible guys all over the field," Blough said. "Getting the ball into their hands and letting them go to work is the goal; just be the point guard, just dish it out, put the ball in play and let those guys go to work."

Led by rookie Tyler Allgeier and 10-year veteran Cordarrelle Patterson -- both of whom average 4.9 yards per carry -- the Falcons own the league's third-ranked rushing attack at nearly 161 yards a game. It helps rookie starting quarterback Desmond Ridder.

"We got to bring our big-boy pads and defend the run and make (Ridder) throw as much as we can," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "It's going to be a tough outing to get the run game stopped."

Again, the Cardinals and Falcons are both desperate for a win. With nothing to play for in terms of the possibility of the postseason, then maybe it is the more desperate team that walks off the field with a victory.

"With the J.J. (Watt retirement) announcement and things like that, we want to try and play at a high level and win these last two games," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. " Everybody is highly motivated to try and send him out the right way."