More mistakes by Ryan and an awful day on defense were too much to overcome the second time around.
Ryan threw four interceptions and rookie Andre Ellington ran for 154 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta in his first NFL start, sending the Falcons to a disheartening 27-13 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday.
“We didn’t play well,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We have to get it fixed.”
There’s plenty to work on.
Coming off a solid home win over Tampa Bay, the Falcons (2-5) struggled on both sides of the ball against a team that had lost its previous two games.
Atlanta had to settle for field goals when it moved the ball in the first half and made numerous mistakes while trying to catch up in the second. The Falcons had trouble protecting Ryan and had virtually no run game to take the pressure off.
Steven Jackson, who missed four games with a hamstring injury, was supposed to give the run game a lift, but was a non-factor, rushing for 6 yards on 11 carries. The Falcons had 27 yards rushing on 14 carries total.
Ryan was the NFC’s offensive player of the week after career-best 148.4 QB rating against the Buccaneers, but struggled against Arizona’s constant pressure without starting left tackle Sam Baker due to a knee injury.
Ryan had three interceptions in Atlanta’s first six games, but tossed four in the second half against the Cardinals (4-4). Atlanta also gave up four sacks after allowing nine its first six games.
Atlanta’s defense allowed Arizona, one of the NFL’s worst rushing teams, to gain 201 yards on the ground. Carson Palmer also had an efficient game, overcoming an early interception to throw for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13-of-18 passing.
“I think everybody across the board — offense, defense and special teams — we all could have done something better to win this football game,” said Falcons receiver Harry Douglas, who had 12 catches for 121 yards.
Atlanta’s problems started with the defense in the first half.
The Falcons had trouble containing Ellington, who started because of Rashard Mendenhall’s lingering toe injury, and weren’t much better against the pass in the first half.
Larry Fitzgerald, who became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 800 receptions, adjusted to a ball thrown behind him for a 10-yard touchdown.
Ellington followed with an 80-yard touchdown run that he started inside and bounced out after the right side of Atlanta’s defense got sealed off and couldn’t catch up to him.
The Cardinals ended the half with a 78-yard scoring drive in six plays, capped by Michael Floyd’s 15-yard touchdown catch that put them up 21-6.
“Anytime you give up an explosive play on a drive, it’s going to lead to points,” Smith said. “(On Sunday), they led to touchdowns.”
A year ago, Ryan threw a career-high five interceptions against the Cardinals in Atlanta, but the Falcons overcame the mistakes and won 23-19.
Not this time.
Atlanta had to settle for a pair of field goals by Matt Bryant after getting the ball deep in Arizona’s end in the first half.
Once the Falcons fell behind, they didn’t give themselves much of a chance to come back.
Ryan threw an interception on Atlanta’s opening drive of the third quarter when he didn’t see linebacker Daryl Washington on a pass intended for Chase Coffman.
The Falcons got a little offensive momentum going later in the quarter, only to have it end when Ryan was sacked and lofted a ball that Rashad Johnson was able to camp under for an interception at Arizona’s 23-yard line.
The Falcons’ next drive ended with a third straight interception, this one by Tyrann Mathieu on an underthrow to Drew Davis. That set up Jay Feely’s second field goal, a 38-yarder that made it 27-6.
Ryan finally got the Falcons into the end zone with a 4-yard touchdown pass and Atlanta recovered an onside kick, giving a brief glimpse of hope. That ended quickly when Ryan tried to heave it downfield under pressure on a fourth-and-20 that Johnson waited under for his second interception.
Ryan finished 34-for-61 for 301 yards and has nine interceptions with one touchdown pass his past two games against Arizona.
“I can’t do it,” Ryan said. “You can’t make those plays and expect your team to win. I have to clean those up. I’ve got to find a way to make sure those don’t happen again.”
NOTES: Ex-Falcon John Abraham, who had a sack, left the game in the second half after a blow to the head but said he should be OK. ... Fitzgerald reached 800 catches in 30 years, 57 days, beating Jason Witten’s mark by 181 days.