Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones makes a first down catch against Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson during the second quarter in an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons hope to stop five-game skid against Cardinals in home finale 

The Falcons (4-9) host the Cardinals (3-10) at 1 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While the Falcons need a win to keep their miracle playoff hopes alive, they know they are playing for pride as the coaching staff has started to look at some young players on the roster. 

“I want to turn things around for myself,” rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. “It’s a pride thing at this point. That’s pretty much what it is.”

On the hot seat: Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen

The last time the Falcons played a rookie quarterback, they took Baker Mayfield and the Browns lightly.

They’ll need a better performance against Josh Rosen and the Cardinals. 

Rosen has completed 55.4 percent of his passes, with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a 68.3 passer rating in 11 games. He guided the Cardinals to a victory over the Packers two weeks ago. The Falcons are coming off a loss to the Packers. 

Mayfield, who guided the Browns to a 28-19 victory over the Falcons on Nov. 11, is having a better rookie campaign than Rosen.

“He’s confident, can make all of the throws and has a strong arm,” Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant said of Rosen. “He can extend plays as well, too. We have to contain him. Keep him in the pocket and make sure that we are tight on the back end. Make sure all of the windows are tight for him. He’s got a bright future.”

The Falcons cornerback discusses facing the Cardinals' rookie quarterback.

X-Factor: Oluokun steps forward at linebacker

Falcons coach Dan Quinn has been pleased with the play of rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun, the sixth-round pick from Yale.

Upon the return from injury of middle linebacker Deion Jones, he has remained in the lineup, mostly at weakside linebacker. 

Oluokun played 27 of 65 snaps (42 percent) against the Packers last week. He played 52 of 81 snaps (64 percent) against the Ravens.

“He has the length to guard tight ends and long arms and the speed to match up against tight ends,” Quinn said.“Much like De’Vondre (Campbell) that’s an important part of (his) game.”

Against the Packers, Oluokun was 40 yards down the field, running stride for stride with tight end Jimmy Graham on a route. He broke up a potential long-gainer late in the first quarter. 

“The thing that I admire most about his game and him as a linebacker, you’ve heard (Hall of Fame general manager) Ron Wolf talk about that, he plays square,” Quinn said. “That’s true as a linebacker, when you’re at the line of scrimmage and you’re square, you can go downhill. When he hits, he can really thump.”

During the pre-draft process and when Keanu Neal was injured, the Falcons considered playing Oluokun at strong safety because of his hitting ability. 

“That was one of the topics that we discussed,” Quinn said. “But we saw his future at linebacker.

Oluokun has played in 13 games and has made four starts. He has 76 tackles, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.

The Falcons coach discusses the performance of the rookie.

Three key matchups: Cardinals at Falcons 

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Falcons CB Desmond Trufant: Fitzgerald, 35, is in his 15th year in the league. He has 52 catches for 563 yards and five touchdowns this season. He’s had over 1,000 yards receiving nine times and had more than 100 catches in five different seasons. “He still can play,” Trufant said. “He’s one of the best to ever do it. He’s been playing for a long time He’s crafty. He knows all of the ins and outs. … It’s going to be a good matchup. I always look forward to playing against great players.”

Cardinals RB David Johnson vs. Falcons MLB Deion Jones: Johnson, who’s battling a quad injury, was targeted 10 times by Rosen against the Lions in their last outing. He had eight catches for just 12 yards. He rushed 15 times for 49 yards as the jumbled up offensive line is an issue. Jones has played well in two games back from his broken foot, but the Falcons haven’t stop the run against the Ravens and the Packers. 

Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones: These two have been battling since their days in the SEC and have an mutual respect. Peterson has been selected to seven Pro Bowls. Jones became the first receiver to post five consecutive 1,400-yard seasons last week.  

QB corner: Matt Ryan on the offense

On the team focusing better: My message is always the same, it’s the next play mentality. That’s the way you (must) operate in this league, regardless of what has happened – good or bad, your focus has to shift and move onto that next play.”

On eliminating the penalties: “Sometimes you do get frustrated with the call or something like that, it’s only natural. What’s important is how you respond to it. ... They’re tough to overcome. Penalties, particularly when you’re on the road, it’s more difficult to overcome those things.”

On second-year tight end Eric Saubert : “He’s gotten better. In the two years, he has been here, he’s improved a lot. You never know. In this league, opportunities come at different times. His opportunity came a little bit last week and we’ll see what it is this week. We have confidence in him that he’s going to go out there and make plays.”

About the Cardinals

» Steve Wilks is in his first season as the head coach of the Cardinals. He was with the Panthers for the six previous seasons as defensive backs coach, associate head coach/defensive backs and associate head coach/defensive coordinator.

» Wilks served as defensive coordinator (1997-98) and head coach (1999) at Savannah State. 

» This will be the 30th meeting. The Cardinals lead the series, 15-14.

» Former Grayson High star Robert Nkemdiche suffered a knee injury last week and had surgery on Thursday. 


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