Cardinals-Falcons Preview

The Associated Press

Facing the Atlanta Falcons one week after they suffered their first loss might not present the ideal opportunity for the Arizona Cardinals to end a five-game losing streak.

The host Falcons look to get back to their winning ways Sunday against a Cardinals team that's trying to avoid a second six-game skid in as many seasons.

Atlanta (8-1) is eager to move on from Sunday's 31-27 defeat at New Orleans as it tries to maintain its standing as the top team in the NFC. The Falcons have not lost consecutive regular-season games since Dec. 6-13, 2009.

"We have a veteran football team, so we've won games and we've lost games and it's all about the way you bounce back,'' defensive back Dunta Robinson said. "One thing I know about this team in the years that I've been here is that we've always bounced back after a loss and I don't expect anything different.

"I mean, we're 8-1, so you can't be too down and you can't be too disappointed about that. ... We're still excited about our future."

The Falcons appear to be an extremely confident group despite losing a game they were in position to win. They led 10-0 in the first quarter and nearly erased a 28-17 fourth-quarter deficit, but failed to convert twice from the New Orleans 1-yard line and was stopped on fourth-and-2 on the same drive with less than 2 minutes to play.

Matt Ryan threw for 411 yards with three touchdowns and one interception while Tony Gonzalez caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two TDs. Atlanta's inability to produce against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, though, played a big part in the defeat. Michael Turner was held to 15 yards on 13 carries and the Falcons totaled 46 yards rushing.

"We've got to do a lot of things better,'' coach Mike Smith said. "It's not one position group, it's not one guy, it's the entire offense.''

The Falcons allowed the Saints to rush for 148 yards and star tight end Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

The Falcons shook things up Monday when they released veteran defensive end Ray Edwards, who started four games this season and had nine tackles and no sacks.

Atlanta ranks 20th in the league allowing 365.6 yards per game, and it will try for a better defensive performance against an Arizona team that is 31st in total offense at 295.4 yards a contest and scoring at 16.0 points. The Cardinals are last in the league with 76.2 yards per game on the ground.

Facing a Falcons squad looking for a ninth straight home win may not bode well for the Cardinals (4-5), who come out of their bye looking for a way to stop their skid.

"Physically you won't be that much better but mentally you can be better, especially when you are going through a streak like we are going through now," safety Kerry Rhodes told the team's official website. "Wipe the slate clean."

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he would not hold back from shuffling his lineup, and rookie Nate Potter is expected to start at left tackle in place of D'Anthony Batiste on a line that has allowed an NFL-high 41 sacks.

"We're not going to be afraid to make a change,'' Whisenhunt said. "That's what you have to look at. If it gives us an opportunity to get better and not stay the same, then that's what you have to do, because we've been inconsistent and we're looking for more consistency. When we play consistent football, we're a pretty good football team.''

The line made strides in the team's last game Nov. 4, giving up only two sacks in a 31-17 loss at Green Bay. John Skelton threw for 306 yards with a TD and INT for the Cardinals.

Larry Fitzgerald, who caught six passes for 74 yards with a touchdown, has one 100-yard receiving game on the season and that came in Week 3. He had seven receptions for 83 yards in a 41-7 loss at Atlanta on Sept. 19, 2010.

Ryan, fourth in the league with a 102.6 passer rating, threw for 225 yards and three TDs in that contest.

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