Friday, March 23, 2018

Falcons 38, Cardinals 19

ATLANTA — Taylor Gabriel plays as if he has something to prove.

No surprise there: He's one of the smallest guys on the field and couldn't even keep a job with the winless Browns.

Landing firmly on his feet in Atlanta, Gabriel turned a couple of short passes into long touchdowns that sparked the Falcons to a 38-19 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.

Gabriel, 5 feet 8 and 165 pounds, was cut by Cleveland just before the season. That motivated him even more after he was claimed off waivers by the Falcons.

"I'm shorter than all you guys here," he told reporters gathered around his locker, "so I have to play with a chip on my shoulder. I have to play bigger than I am. I have to go out there and show people what I can do on a week-to-week basis."

Gabriel scored on plays of 35 and 25 yards that showed off his speed. His second score, with just less than nine minutes left, finished off Arizona, which began the season touted as a Super Bowl contender but has been one of the NFL's most disappointing teams.

"I felt like they were running in slow motion," Gabriel quipped.

The Falcons began the day leading the NFC South and moved a step closer to their first playoff berth since 2012.

"We recognize the opportunity we have at hand," coach Dan Quinn said.

The Cardinals have lost two straight and three of four, putting them in danger of missing the playoffs after reaching the NFC Championship Game last season.

"There's not much you can take positive from this game," Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald said.

Arizona — with coach Bruce Arians on the sideline after falling ill and being briefly hospitalized early last week — got off to a strong start, burning the Falcons for eight plays of at least 13 yards on its first two possessions for a 10-7 lead.

The Falcons surged ahead late in the first half when Matt Ryan tossed a screen pass to Gabriel, who picked up a couple of key blocks and outran everyone else to the end zone.

Arizona cut its deficit to 17-13 when Chris Catanzaro hit a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the half, the Cardinals taking advantage of an interception off a bobbled pass by Atlanta star receiver Julio Jones.

The Cardinals never got closer. Tevin Coleman's 2-yard touchdown run capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive that extended Atlanta's lead to 24-13 late in the third quarter.



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