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Cardinals, Falcons meet amid struggles, QB changes

Dec 24, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) calls a play at the line during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The host Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals each will look to end lengthy losing streaks when they meet on Sunday.

The Falcons (5-10) have dropped four straight and six of their past seven games following a 17-9 loss to the host Baltimore Ravens on Saturday. The Cardinals (4-11) have lost five straight and seven of their past eight contests after a 19-16 overtime loss to visiting Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The Falcons and Cardinals have undergone changes at quarterback.

Falcons rookie Desmond Ridder will be making his third start after coach Arthur Smith benched Marcus Mariota during the team’s bye week due to his poor performance and a nagging knee injury. Mariota has been placed on injured reserve.

Ridder went 22-of-33 passing for 218 yards against the Ravens a week after throwing for just 97 yards in a loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The Falcons have gone 4-8 in one-score games this year after going 7-2 last season.

“You’re trying to build a culture of winning the right way,” Smith said. “We’ve come in a lot of close games with a young team, and been charging back, but we haven’t gotten over the hump in the last four games. We need to do that.

“Desmond Ridder needs to go in there (and) we need to go win a football game. Those are important, especially if he’s going to be the quarterback of the future.”

Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said Colt McCoy will start against the Falcons after he cleared concussion protocol and practiced Wednesday.

McCoy left with a concussion during a loss to the Denver Broncos on Dec. 18 and was replaced by Trace McSorley, who made his first career start against the Buccaneers.

McCoy has completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 780 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in four games this season.

The Cardinals’ quarterback situation has been in disarray since Kyler Murray’s season-ending torn ACL in a loss to the New England Patriots on Dec. 12. Murray, who reportedly will have surgery on Jan. 3, is facing a potential nine-month recovery. His availability for the start of the 2023 regular season is uncertain.

“We had some meetings (Tuesday) and I just said, ‘Kyler can’t play and you brought me here to play. I want to finish the season strong,’ ” McCoy said. “That all hinged on getting cleared and going through the whole concussion protocol and the doctors did a fantastic job. I was fighting to play last week but they weren’t having it.

“I’m fully cleared and excited about getting another opportunity.”

The Cardinals will play their first game since defensive end J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, said earlier this week that he will retire at season’s end.

Arizona defensive lineman Zach Allen (hand), offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (knee/ankle), cornerback Antonio Hamilton (hip), receiver A.J. Green (illness), running back James Conner (illness) and cornerback Marco Wilson (neck) didn’t practice on Wednesday.

Cardinals’ offensive linemen Billy Price (knee) and Max Garcia (shoulder) and safety Charles Washington (chest) all were limited.

Falcons guards Chuma Edoga (knee), who has missed the past three games, and Elijah Wilkinson (calf) didn’t practice Wednesday. Tight end Feleipe Franks (concussion) also was held out after entering concussion protocol on Monday.

–Field Level Media