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Cardinals Starters Dominate In Win Over Falcons

Brown, Mathieu, Golden lead way in 24-14 preseason victory


Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu picks off a pass on the defense's first snap.

ATLANTA – The Falcons opened up their highly-anticipated new stadium on Saturday night, but it was the Cardinals who whirred around Mercedes-Benz Stadium like a finely-tuned sports car.

Coach Bruce Arians couldn't have asked for much more out of his starters in the most meaningful game of the preseason, as both sides of the ball excelled early in the 24-14 victory. The Cardinals built up a 17-0 lead against the defending NFC champions by the time their first units departed.

"I thought our starters, especially our defense, held them in check," Arians said. "Offensively, we did some good things."

Arians was prepared to play his starters through the first half if they didn't perform to his satisfaction, but the opposite happened. While running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald saw minimal action as planned, it wasn't long until their teammates joined them on the sideline.

"We really substituted a lot of guys earlier than I expected because we were playing so well," Arians said.

After missing the past two games with a quadriceps injury, wide receiver John Brown made his preseason debut a memorable one, hauling in touchdown catches of 28 and 21 yards.

On the first, quarterback Carson Palmer threw a beautiful fade, which got to Brown ahead of a pair of closing defenders. On the second, Brown hauled in an over-the-shoulder throw from Drew Stanton while somehow managing to stay in-bounds.

"It was really good to see 'Smoke' out there," Arians said.

The passing game started slowly but found its groove, and Palmer finished the game 8-of-13 for 86 yards and a score. Stanton was 4-of-6 for 53 yards and a touchdown.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu continued his stellar preseason with an interception in his second straight game. Linebacker Karlos Dansby had the assist, tipping Matt Ryan's first pass high into the air, which gave Mathieu time to dive under it. Ryan finished the game 4-of-11 for 36 yards and the pick, a far cry from his prolific 2016 season.

Linebacker Markus Golden had a big play, sacking Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub in the second quarter and forcing him to fumble. Linebacker Chandler Jones recovered, and Brown hauled in his second touchdown of the game one play later for the three-score lead.

"He was shaking in his boots because he was a tight end," Golden said. "I knew he was blocking me just from how he was acting. I'm like, "Yeah, I've got me one.' … No tight end's going to block me, unless the quarterback gets the ball out quick."

Linebacker Cap Capi played well, registering a team-high seven tackles and a sack-and-a-half.

It could have been an even more impressive night for the starters. Running back Chris Johnson fumbled twice early on – losing the second -- as the Cardinals punted on their first possession and then had the turnover. Running back Elijhaa Penny and wideout Chad Williams also fumbled on the night.

"That was the worst thing we did, I thought," Arians said.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson missed a chance at an early interception, dropping a ball after temporarily hauling in a Ryan throw.

"Not really kicking myself in the butt for not catching it, because it doesn't count," Peterson said. "But I wish I would have brought it in, for sure, though. You always want to make those type of plays."

The offensive line had some early hiccups and the game was scoreless after the first quarter, but the starters put it into over-dive in the second.

"Obviously you want to win these preseason games, even though they don't count, just for momentum, confidence and all those little things," Palmer said. "There was some good, there were some things that need to be improved on, and we have two weeks to get ready for this opener."

Images from the fourth preseason game on Saturday night

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