Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons: Cardinals need to defend the tight end (BLOG)

When the Cardinals (3-4) host the Falcons (2-4) on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd, the outcome of the game might easily be determined by whether the Cardinals can defend the tight end.

Overly simplistic? Maybe. Maybe not. Because if you're trying to identify a common thread that runs through the Cards' four losses, look no further than how the tight end position has hurt the Cards' defense: 29 catches, 495 yards and 7 touchdowns total.

Have we mentioned that the Falcons feature future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has caught 24 passes for 276 yards with two touchdowns in his last three games, including a 12-reception, 146-yard performance against New England?

In addition, Falcons' QB Matt Ryan was named NFC offensive player of the week after completing 20 of 26 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns in a win against the Buccaneers. Ryan posted a career-best 148.4 QB rating as the Falcons snapped a three-game losing streak. 

Of course, that's in stark contrast to the abysmal outing that Ryan had against the Cards' defense last season in throwing a career-high five interceptions with no touchdown passes en route to a 40.5 rating, the second-lowest single-game total of his career. 

Can the Cardinals' defense replicate that performance? Can the Cardinals avoid yielding turnovers as a team? Remember, the Cards have committed 17 turnovers, second most in league. Carson Palmer's 13 interceptions are also second most in the NFL. Palmer has thrown at least two interceptions in each of the past five games.

By the way, if Palmer can complete at least four passes to his Pro Bowl receiver, then Larry Fitzgerald will become the youngest player ever with 800 career receptions at 30 years, 57 days.

Speaking of stats, former Falcons' defender John Abraham had two sacks last week against Seattle, giving him 124 for career, most among active players.

Abraham will set his sights on Ryan, although Falcons' QB's have been sacked just nine times this season, tied for best in the NFL. 

However, Abraham isn't looking to inflict any pent up pain on his former quarterback. 

"Everybody asks me about the quarterbacks,'' Abraham said. "I love them. That's the reason I get paid. I just don't like the guys in front of him, the tight end, the tackles.''

Or maybe the Cards should just hope that current trends continue in Week #8, considering that Atlanta is 0-2 on road this season, while Arizona is 2-1 at home.

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