With both teams eliminated from the playoffs and playing for pride, the Falcons needed a last-second field goal to defeat the Cardinals 20-19 on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Younghoe Koo’s 21-yard field goal lifted the Falcons to victory and helped to improve their record to 6-10. The Cardinals dropped to 4-12.

“Every game counts,” Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “Every time you get to play this game, it’s a blessing, and you need to treat it as such. We want to finish as strong as we can.”

Koo has been clutch for the Falcons.

“A lot of lessons learned throughout my career, just don’t miss them,” Koo said.

The Cardinals were playing with backup quarterback David Blough. Falcons rookie Desmond Ridder led the team on the game-winning field goal drive after the Cardinals took the lead with 4:57 to play.

“The game is going to come down to this,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “You can make a lot of stats in quarters one through three. If you want to be a big-time quarterback, you’re going to need to win critical third downs and in two-minute (situations) and go win the game like he did.”

Falcons running backs Tyler Allgeier and Cordarelle Patterson helped to lead the charge. Allgeier rushed 20 times for 83 yards, and Patterson had nine carries for 42 yards. Both players scored a touchdown.

“Tyler continues, the guy has consistently shown, especially in the second half of the year, as the game goes on, he’s hard to tackle,” Smith said. “He’s such a smart and instinctive player. He’s another guy that we’re excited about.”

Wide receiver Drake London caught five of his eight targets for 47 yards. Tight end MyCole Pruitt led the Falcons in receiving yards with 49 on four catches.

“They have been shining, man,” Jarrett said. “Des, Drake and Allgeier and our defensive rookies, they are finding a way to make an impact on this team.”

Ridder was elated to get his first NFL victory as a starter.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Ridder said. “This is obviously one thing that I don’t take for granted.”

Blough, a veteran with five career starts, was signed off the Vikings’ practice squad Dec. 12 and took over at quarterback for the Cardinals. Trace McSorley started their previous game, against Tampa Bay a week earlier.

The Cardinals had hoped to get quarterback Colt McCoy back, but he showed more concussion symptoms late last week. Starting quarterback Kyler Murray sustained a knee injury Dec. 12 and is out for the rest of the season.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Ridder made his third start for the Falcons. Here’s how his audition has been going.

Ridder had directed 28 offensive possessions. The offense had produced six field goals and four rushing touchdowns.

In his start against the Saints on Dec. 18, the Falcons had 10 possessions and produced two touchdowns and a field goal. Against the Ravens on Dec. 24, the Falcons had nine possessions, but managed only three field goals in the 17-9 loss played in frigid conditions.

Against the Cardinals, the offense opened the game strong with a 16-play touchdown drive. Ridder then fumbled on the second drive, and the third drive stalled on the Cardinals’ 9-yard line.

Patterson scored a 5-yard touchdown run on the fourth possession after Richie Grant blocked a punt.

The Falcons had three consecutive punts in the third quarter as the Cardinals took a 16-14 lead into the fourth quarter. On their eighth drive, Koo added a 27-yard field goal to put the Falcons up 17-16.

The Falcons finished their last two drives with field goals to pull out the victory.

Thanks to a powerful rushing attack and blocked punt, the Falcons held a 14-13 lead at halftime.

Allgeier and Patterson both scored rushing touchdowns, and Grant broke through to block an Andy Lee punt in the second quarter. Grant also recovered the punt.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

On the first possession of the game, the Cardinals drove to the Falcons’ 10-yard line, but couldn’t overcome a holding call on tackle Josh Jones. After the drive stalled, Prater made a 38-yard field goal to put the Cardinals up 3-0.

The Falcons answered with a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took 9:46 off the clock and stretched into the second quarter. The drive was powered by Allgeier, who had seven rushes for 39 yards during the drive. He scored on a 5-yard touchdown run as the Falcons overcame a holding penalty on Pro Bowl guard Chris Lindstrom.

“Our whole goal this week and every week is to start fast,” Ridder said. “We did that in the first quarter coming out, and then there was a little bit of a lull.”

After defense forced a punt, Ridder fumbled the center exchange with Drew Dalman, and the ball was recovered by Arizona’s Leki Fotu at the 8-yard line.

After a 4-yard run by James Conner, Blough tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Trey McBride to make the score 10-7.

The Falcons’ next drive stalled on the Arizona 9-yard line when a fourth-and-2 pass intended for wide receiver Drake London was incomplete.

The defense held Arizona to a three-and-out, and Lee came on to punt. Grant was lined up to the left of the long snapper and came free when he ran to his right and shot through the gap between the center and the guard.

“Coach (Marquice) Williams drew it up this week, and we felt like we had a pretty good idea of where he was going to hit at,” Grant said. “(A player) did a great job of taking the snapper. I looped around the other way and was able to block the punt.”

Grant got up and hustled over toward the left sideline to recover the ball.

Patterson scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-10.

The Cardinals added a 36-yard field goal from Matt Prater for the halftime margin.

The Falcons couldn’t get moving to open the second half, and punter Bradley Pinon pinned the Cardinals on their 1-yard line. The Cardinals, with the aid of a questionable pass-interference call on cornerback Dee Alford, drove down the field and added another 36-yard field goal from Prater to make the score 16-14 with 9:00 left in the third quarter.

Prater missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt that was wide left.

After a punt and the Falcons stopped the Cardinals on a fourth-and-1, the offense stalled at Arizona’s 9-yard line, Koo added a 27-yard field goal to put the Falcons up 17-16.

The Cardinals answered with a 57-yard field goal by Prater to make the score 19-17 with 4:57 left.

Behind some nifty running by Patterson, the Falcons marched down the field to set up Koo’s field goal.

On the injury front, Falcons fullback Keith Smith was evaluated for a concussion in the second quarter, and running back/punt returner Avery Williams was ruled out with a foot injury in the fourth quarter.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Falcons

“All we wanted was a win,” said nickel back Isaiah Oliver, who tied Grant for the team lead with nine tackles. “We didn’t really care how it happened. We just wanted a win.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11 Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18 Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13

Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16


Dec. 18 Saints 21, Falcons 18

Dec. 24 Ravens 17, Falcons 9

Jan. 1 Falcons 20, Cardinals 19

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD