Cardinals look to revive sputtering offense against Atlanta

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TEMPE, Arizona — Over the past seven quarters, the Arizona Cardinals have managed a whopping three points.

Not exactly the kind of offensive output the team will need if it expects to stay in command of the NFC West.

After facing two of the league's tougher defenses in Detroit and Seattle, the Cardinals hope a visit to Atlanta on Sunday will get things rolling.

The Falcons are last in the NFL in total defense, allowing 409.9 yards per game. Arizona is an unimpressive 25th in the NFL in total offense, and the Cardinals have been at their worst the past two games.

Coach Bruce Arians insists this Falcons defense, particularly up front, is a lot better than the statistics indicate.

"I just watch the tape of the last four games, and they look pretty damn good and pretty damn stout," he said before the team practiced on Wednesday.

There's a good chance Arizona will be without eight-time Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald for the second week in a row because of a sprained left knee. Fitzgerald didn't practice on Wednesday.

"He's making some progress," Arians said, "so we've got our fingers crossed there."

The Cardinals scored touchdowns in their first two possessions against Detroit two weeks ago, and haven't scored one since. They would have had one in Sunday's 19-3 loss at Seattle, but Jaron Brown dropped a pass right between his numbers in the end zone.

The loss to the Seahawks snapped a six-game winning streak for Arizona.

At 9-2, the Cardinals still have a two-game lead over the Seahawks and San Francisco in the NFC West, but a loss at Atlanta would cut that advantage to a game, since the Seahawks play the 49ers on Thursday night.

The Cardinals have not lost consecutive games since Oct. 13 and 17 of last season, when they were beaten first by San Francisco, then by Seattle.

"I think that speaks volumes for the leadership in your locker room to never lose two in a row," Arians said. "That's always one of our mantras, to never lose two in a row."

He said the veterans "come to work and keep it a daily process."

"The Seattle game is over with. To me, it was a month ago," Arians said. "It's that far in the rearview mirror already, and you're always ahead coming to work getting ready for what you control. You don't control that game anymore. You control today."

Arians has defended quarterback Drew Stanton, the backup who took over when Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Asked what responsibility Stanton bears for the team's offensive struggles, Arians said "none."

The statistics would indicate otherwise.

Against Seattle, Stanton completed 14 of 26 passes for 149 yards and was intercepted once. He's thrown three interceptions in the past seven quarters.

"I think sometimes I could have tried to stay in the pocket a little bit more, a half-second trying to just reset my feet as opposed to getting out and trying to push the ball down the field," Stanton said, "and trying to be more accurate underneath, obviously with Dre (Andre Ellington), giving him a chance to catch and run. It was difficult. Obviously, it's a great defense going up there and they presented a lot of problems like we thought they would."

The offense, he said, was "just taking turns of not being on the same page. It's unfortunate, and that falls on my shoulders."

The lack of a running game hasn't helped Stanton's cause.

In the past three games combined, Arizona has rushed for 138 yards on 68 attempts, an average of a little more than 2 yards per carry.

The absence of a power running back has been a problem. The Cardinals tried to address that this week with the signing of Michael Bush, who was the short-yardage back for the Chicago Bears last season.

But Arians said it will take some time to integrate Bush into the offense.

"We'll see, but it's going to be hard to have a guy who didn't play in OTAs and didn't have training camp, ad for me to give him the ball on Sunday," the coach said.

Notes: The Cardinals signed LB Kion Wilson to the practice squad. He takes the place of LB Kaelin Burnett, who was signed to the active roster by the Tennessee Titans. Arizona also re-signed RB Kerwynn Williams to the practice squad.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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