Report card: Cardinals 24, Falcons 14

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Report card: Cardinals 24, Falcons 14

  • Story Highlights
  • Reigning MVP Matt Ryan has shaky 4 of 11 passing outing.
  • Jack Crawford and Takkarist McKinley combine on two big plays. 
  • Matt Simms tossed 57-yard touchdown pass to Josh Magee.

The defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons are not ready for the 2017 season.

They have one more exhibition game and will need to play their starters some against Jacksonville after a shoddy performance in their third -- dress rehearsal -- exhibition game against Arizona on Saturday.

Tickets distributed for the game was announced at 70, 237, but about one-third of them didn’t attend the game.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) hands off to running back Tevin Coleman (26) during the exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Here are the grades for the Falcons from their 24-14 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday for the opening game in the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Run offense: Running back Tevin Coleman had some big holes to cruise through early in the game. Wes Schweitzer started at right guard and was strong in the run game. Backup running back Brian Hill ran with some authority, but didn’t gain much yardage. Terron Ward had another strong outing. Grade: D

Pass offense: The first-team offense struggled against the Cardinals after scoring two touchdowns in the previous two exhibition games. Quarterback Matt Ryan tossed an interception on his first attempt of the game. He was looking to his left and then moved his eyes back inside and fired a pass that was deflected and intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu, the player formerly known as the Honey Badger. Ryan was 4 of 11 for 36 yards with one interception and one dropped interception. The Falcons tried to be aggressive on a fourth-and-3 from their 48, but Ryan’s pass intended for Ward was incomplete. The offense continued to sputter under backup Matt Schaub, who had a sack-fumble on his first play and couldn’t push the ball in the end zone after getting it on the 27-yard line. Matt Simms and Josh Magee connected on a short pass that turned into 57-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Magee flashed some speed. Grade: D 

Run defense: Arizona running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington were able to move the ball against the first-team defense. The penetration was not good and Johnson was able to work his way back to cutback lanes. Jack Crawford had a big forced fumble when he popped Arizona backup running back Elijhaa Perry and Takkarist McKinley recovered. Safety Keanu Neal also had a forced fumbled. Grade: C

Pass defense: Carson Palmer tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to the speedy John Brown in the first quarter. Falcons cornerback Janor Jones was beaten on the play and free safety Ricardo Allen didn't get over the top in time to help. Brown later beat cornerback C.J. Goodwin and caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Drew Stanton. Crawford and McKinley are working well together on the left side of the defensive line. Crawford had a sack of Stanton in the second quarter. McKinley forced Stanton to step up in the pocket and Crawford walloped him. Jalen Collins had a forced fumble. Grade C  

Special teams:  The Special teams units were sloppy. Coordinator Keith Armstrong has a few weeks to tighten things up before the Falcons face the Bears in Chicago on Sept. 10. Grade F 

Coaching:  The Falcons fluked their dress rehearsal game. The coaching staff will be tempted to play the starters in the fourth exhibition game after this outing. The offensive play was shaky and they couldn’t figure out how to get the ball to Julio Jones. A fan noticed that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was calling the plays from the sidelines and not covering his mouth so that the Cardinals couldn’t try to steal the signals. Crawford looks like a keeper. The defense was torched for two touchdown passes to the speedy John Brown. Grade F

Next up: In the second game in the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons host the Jacksonville Jaguars at 7 p.m. on Thursday. 

Atlanta Falcons defensive ends Takkarist McKinley (98) and Jack Crawford (95) pressure the Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton. Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

2017 EXHIBITION SEASON 

GAME TWO: STEELERS 17, FALCONS 13 

GAME ONE: DOLPHINS 23, FALCONS 20

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