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Sloppy Falcons overcome errors, Cardinals
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - The Atlanta Falcons turned the ball over six times and Matt Ryan threw a career-high five interceptions, but somehow managed to beat the Arizona Cardinals, 23-19.
The Falcons (9-1) took their first lead of the game with under seven minutes to play, when Michael Turner capped a 7-play, 70-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Atlanta's defense helped preserve the 23-19 lead after Ryan threw his fifth pick of the contest. Sam Acho's interception set up Arizona at the 32 of the Falcons, but Larry Fitzgerald was unable to control a pass along the left sideline on 4th-and-2.
The Falcons took over at their own 24 with 3:06 remaining. They were able to run out the rest of the clock for the victory.
Ryan completed 28-of-46 passes for 301 yards for Atlanta, which bounced back from a 31-27 loss to New Orleans last week. Turner carried the ball 15 times for 46 yards.
The Cardinals (4-6) benched quarterback John Skelton after he connected on 2- of-7 passes for six yards in the first quarter. Ryan Lindley, a sixth-round pick in this year's draft, took over and completed 9-of-20 passes for 64 yards.
"We said during the bye week we were going to make changes that we thought necessary, and that's what we're going to do going forward," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We have to make more plays."
LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries for Arizona, which has lost six in a row since starting the season 4-0.
Trailing 19-16, the Falcons started from their own 30 with 9:44 to play. Harry Douglas caught passes of 11 and 26 yards to move the ball into Arizona territory. Roddy White followed with an 18-yard grab. On 3rd-and-5 from the 10-yard line, Tony Gonzalez caught a pass at the one. Turner then rumbled into the end zone to give Atlanta the lead with 6:40 left.
The Falcons' defense held strong twice in the final minutes to preserve the victory.
Ryan threw three interceptions in the first quarter, with his first pick coming on the first play from scrimmage. Ryan's pass deflected off White and ended up in the hands of Rashad Johnson, who returned the ball 34 yards to the Atlanta 9-yard line.
Stephens-Howling needed just two carries to find the end zone. He started Arizona's next offensive series with a 40-yard run. Jay Feely made a 48-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 10:59 remaining.
Atlanta finally moved the ball past midfield with about five minutes to play. Ryan, though, was picked off by William Gay at the Arizona 25-yard line. The Cardinals failed to take advantage and went three-and-out on offense.
Another Ryan interception occurred on Atlanta's next series. Kerry Rhodes picked off Ryan at the 20-yard line of the Falcons. Skelton missed a wide open Fitzgerald in the end zone on the first play, and Arizona eventually settled for a 28-yard Feely field goal.
"We were kind of sleep-walking through the first quarter of the football game," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It shows our resiliency."
The Falcons finally got on the board early in the second quarter. Matt Bryant capped a 13-play drive with a 51-yard field goal to cut the gap to 13-3.
With Skelton on the bench, Lindley took over under center for the Cardinals. On the third play, John Abraham stripped the football out of Lindley's hand. Jonathan Babineaux picked up the loose ball and went 15 yards the other way for a Falcons touchdown.
Bryant made a 28-yard field goal on Atlanta's next possession to make it 13-13 with 1:52 remaining. White caught passes of 37, 19 and seven yards on the 10- play drive.
Stephens-Howling recorded a 52-yard run on the first play of the ensuing series. However, the Cardinals had to settle for a 38-yard Feely field goal.
Atlanta responded with a field goal of its own before the half. Ryan completed passes to Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers and Julio Jones, setting up Bryant's 48-yarder as time expired.
Ryan's fourth interception came late in the third stanza. Daryl Washington got the pick this time around and returned the ball seven yards to the Atlanta 16- yard line. Feely made a 27-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth to make it 19-16 Arizona.
The Cardinals hold a 14-12 edge in the all-time series. The Falcons have won seven of the past 10 against Arizona ... Atlanta improved to 5-0 at home this season ... Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed his third straight game with an ankle sprain ... Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell and tight end Todd Heap missed Sunday's game.
11/18 18:06:56 ET