After week in Phoenix, Falcons eye rebound at Cardinals

Field Level Media

October 10, 2019 at 3:34 am.

The Atlanta Falcons spent the week in the Phoenix area to prepare for their upcoming game against the Arizona Cardinals.

A spa week, it was not.

While the Cardinals’ first victory of the season Sunday could prove costly because of back tightness suffered by top running back David Johnson, that seems like a small thing compared to the mess the Atlanta Falcons (1-4) find themselves in as they prepare to meet the Cardinals (1-3-1) in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday.

The Falcons have lost three games in a row and rank 31st in scoring defense (30.4 points per game), after Houston rolled up 53 points and 592 yards on them last week.

“One hundred percent gut-check time for us,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn told reporters.

Atlanta did not go home after that 53-32 loss in Houston, instead taking a planned flight to Arizona for a fourth road game in the first six weeks. That provided a week to cleanse and refresh.

“It’s kind of like being in isolation,” Quinn told reporters, “where you get extra time to devote to our game, to do things together.”

Quinn received a vote of confidence from owner Arthur Blank following the Houston game, but speculation surrounds his job status after the Falcons went 7-9 last season following two consecutive trips to the playoffs beginning with a run to Super Bowl LI.

Quinn, in his fifth year as head coach, took over as defensive coordinator in the offseason, a move he also made midway through 2016. He said this week he has no thoughts about relinquishing that role. Atlanta ranks 30th in third-down conversion percentage allowed (56.5), and Houston converted 10 of 13 third down chances.

“The key is the right call at the right time,” Quinn said of the defensive breakdowns.

Neither team has shown much defense this season, as the Cardinals continue to play without cornerback Patrick Peterson, whose six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy will end on Monday. The Cardinals are giving up 408 yards a game, about 30 more than Atlanta.

The Cardinals loosened the reins on rookie quarterback Kyler Murray in their 26-23 victory at Cincinnati a week ago, enabling Murray to run extensively for the first time this season.

Murray had 93 yards and a touchdown rushing, and his 24-yard run for a first down with 39 seconds left helped set up Zane Gonzalez’s game-winning field goal as time expired.

Johnson, who leads the team with 264 yards rushing and is second with 247 yards receiving, did side work in Wednesday’s practice, and coach Kliff Kingsbury did not seem overly concerned about his status.

“He gets our system, and we can plug him in day-of and feel good about him executing at a high level,” Kingsbury told reporters.

Arizona wide receiver Christian Kirk returned to the practice field Wednesday after missing the Cincinnati game with an ankle injury, an encouraging sign for the team’s No. 2 wideout. Starting cornerback Tramaine Brock (shoulder) also practiced after sustaining a shoulder injury against Cincinnati.

Atlanta placed safety Johnathan Cyprien (foot) on injured reserve one week after acquiring him from Philadelphia. Cyprien missed the 2018 season with a knee injury.