The Falcons were not built to win in the trenches.
The offense line has struggled all season.
Now, the defense, which had been respectable, is starting to leak oil in the run game.
Falcons running back Steven Jackson, who was returning from a hamstring injury, was held to 6 yard rushing on 11 carries against the Cardinals. Jackson, the leading active rusher in the NFL, was repeatedly met in the backfield by defenders.
He was never able to get rolling behind a revamped offensive line.
“The Arizona defense came out there and did a really good job against the run,” Jackson said. “It was definitely not the production that I wanted to see out of myself.”
Falcons coach Mike Smith was not as kind.
“We are not winning at the line of scrimmage,” Smith said.
The defense has been showing signs of slipping over the past three games. They had giving up more than 100 yards to New England, New York Jets and Tampa Bay. The Cardinals, needed to protect Carson Palmer from throwing interceptions, leaned heavily on rookie running back Andre Ellington.
He shredded the Falcons for 154 yards on 15 carries, including a sparkling 80-yard touchdown dash. The Cardinals rushed for 201 yards and helped out Palmer, who tossed two touchdowns to go with an interception.
The Falcons are 2-5, but still believe they can turn their season around.
“Yeah, definitely,” rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “We have no choice. We have aspirations to be a great team. All of the veterans are used to being in a winning spot. We are going to get back to it. We just have to continue to grind.”
The Falcons have struggled running the ball, stopping the run and pass blocking. They have a rash of injuries and are committing penalties at an alarming rate.
They have a lot to fix if they plan to get back to .500 before they can even think about the playoffs.
“I don’t see why not,” defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said, when asked about a turnaround. “We have to continue to work hard and do the necessary things that we need to do in order to win. We can’t have so many penalties and give up too many explosive (plays). That just equals up to a game that’s going to be lost.”