Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has never lost back-to-back games in the NFL.
The last and only time the Falcons have lost back-to-back games under coach Mike Smith was in the 2009 season, when Ryan was out and Chris Redman was at the helm against Philadelphia (34-7) and New Orleans (26-23).
The Falcons are seeking to bounce back from a hard-fought 31-27 loss against the arch-rival Saints when they face the 4-5 Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Here’s a brief Q&A involving Ryan and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.
Q: Are you glad that you don’t have to answer any more questions about going undefeated?
A: It’s just what it is. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s where we’re at. Nine games into it, we’re still in really good position.
Q: How do you assess Arizona’s defense under coordinator Ray Horton?
A: They blitz almost 40 percent of their snaps. They’re, I think, the top blitzing defense in the NFL. They’ve got a number of stats in the top five in the NFL. I’ve been very impressed.
Q: What will it be like facing a team on a five-game losing streak?
A: They’re going to be very hungry coming in. They’re going to make adjustments. I’d expect to see some different things than we’ve seen from them thus far, and we’ll have to adjust to it. You have to expect every week that the team is going to come in and give you their best shot. That’s going to be our mindset this week.
Before the 2010 NFL draft, when the Falcons were looking at the top linebackers in the nation, they took a trip to Fort Worth, Texas.
They thoroughly scouted TCU’s Daryl Washington, but ended up selecting Sean Weatherspoon in the first round with the 19th pick.
Washington would slip into the second round and be selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 47th overall pick.
Washington, in his third season in the league, had developed into a force at inside linebacker for the Cardinals and will be the X-factor in Sunday’s game.
“He’s developed into a good, young inside linebacker that we thought we were getting when we drafted him out of TCU a couple of years ago,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He’s steadily progressed. He’s a good fit for our (3-4) defensive scheme.”
Washington leads the Cardinals in tackles (75), sacks (eight), quarterback pressures (11), tackles for loss (nine) and forced fumbles (two).
“We ask him to do a number of things, whether he’s filling for the run, playing defense, covering one-on-one or blitzing,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s done very well. I think he’s a smart player. He’s got some good guys around him, and they play well together as a team.”
The Falcons are aware of Washington, who plays well off of nose tackle Dan Williams, who normally takes up two blockers.
“They test your protection rules all the time,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “They try to put pressure right in your quarterback’s face, right up the middle. They are getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and that always helps your pass defense.”
Washington is the key to Arizona’s pressure packages. In addition to Williams, ends Darnell Dockett and Vonnie Holliday, who could start for Calais Campbell, are stout.
“We haven’t face this style of a penetrating, blitzing team,” Koetter said. “It will be new for us. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
The Falcons are considering giving Arizona punt returner Patrick Peterson the “Devin Hester” treatment.
Peterson, a former LSU player who was the fifth overall pick of the 2011 draft, became the fourth player in NFL history to return four punts for touchdowns last season, tying the NFL record. He and Jack Christiansen (Detroit, 1951) are the only rookies with four punt returns for touchdowns.
This season he has 34 returns for 263 yards and no touchdowns.
Special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said the Falcons must consider kicking away from Peterson or kicking out of bounds.
“He’s that type of guy,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know that you’re ever punting to him.”
When the Falcons faced Chicago’s Devin Hester to open the 2011 season, they punted to him once, and he had a return of 14 yards.
“(Peterson) can flat out play,” Armstrong said. “He will be a big-time challenge for us. He’s the best returner we faced all year.”
Peterson is also starting at left cornerback and has three interceptions.
“I’m happy with Patrick,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We’ve put him in some tough situations because we’ve had to match him up with other teams’ best players, and that’s never easy. We’ve asked him to play a number of different spots. … I’m really excited about his future. He’s going to be one of the better players in the league at that position.”
Peterson’s willingness to tackle has been questioned.
“We all are looking at what we can do to get better, but I’m really pleased with Patrick and his development,” Whisenhunt said.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt’s paths crossed in Cleveland.
Dimitroff was a scout for the Browns when Whisenhunt, who played at Georgia Tech and for the Falcons (1985-88), served as the special-teams coach in Cleveland in during the 1999 season.
Other connections include:
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