ATLANTA (Oct. 1, 2006) -- Just imagine how good the Atlanta Falcons will be on defense when John Abraham returns.
The Michael Vick-led offense is having trouble getting into the end zone once it gets close -- not that it matters the way the defenders are playing. They have allowed only one touchdown all season, even though Abraham went down in Week 1 with a groin injury and hasn't played since.
"Part of being in the NFL is playing without guys throughout the season," said Patrick Kerney, who tied a career high with three sacks. "We've got so many veterans at all three levels -- along the line, linebacker and defensive back. Everyone is stepping up. Maybe we don't have many guys who are explosive as John, but we're not giving up any big plays."
Arizona did. Jerious Norwood scored on a 78-yard run, the longest in Falcons' history, while 46-year-old Morten Andersen equaled a career high with five field goals.
Arizona's lone TD was a 99-yard interception return by Adrian Wilson, the longest in that franchise's history. Kurt Warner had another miserable game in Arizona's third straight loss and was promptly demoted to backup quarterback.
Coach Dennis Green announced that rookie Matt Leinart will start next week against Kansas City.
"I'm going to do whatever I can to help him," said Warner, who lost to the Falcons for the first time in seven career starts. "Maybe he can turn things around. Obviously, I was disappointed and frustrated. I wasn't making enough plays to help us win."
Warner was 11 of 20 for 128 yards with an interception and two fumbles. Edgerrin James was held to 41 yards on 20 carries as the Cardinals managed just 31 yards on the ground.
Leinart took over with 13 minutes remaining and got off to a rough start. On the rookie's second play, Grady Jackson blew right by the line to knock the ball away from the quarterback before he could even hand off on a running play.
Rod Coleman recovered for the Falcons to set up Andersen's final kick, a 28-yarder that matched his career high for field goals in a game. The second-oldest player in NFL history also connected from 34, 40, 36 and 26 yards.
Leinart also had a late interception on a tipped pass.
"I've been waiting patiently for my turn," said Leinart, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner. "I'm not arrogant, but I have a lot of confidence. I feel the more experience I get, the better I will be."
Vick had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season and seventh of his career, extending his own NFL record for quarterbacks with 101 yards on 11 carries. But the Falcons quarterback didn't have an especially memorable game, failing to produce a touchdown on six trips inside the Arizona 20-yard line.
Atlanta came into the game ranked 26th out of 32 teams in red-zone efficiency, which is sure to go lower after they dropped to 3 for 17 on the season.
"Everybody's pressing. Everybody's trying to make something happen," tight end Alge Crumpler said. "The defense keeps baling us out. But if you look at the big picture, we're 3-1. We're right where we need to be."
The Falcons are playing as well defensively as any team in the league. The only touchdown they have surrendered came on a trick play by New Orleans last week (the other two against Atlanta were produced by a blocked punt and Wilson's return).
Linebacker Michael Boley had a huge game, tipping the pass that Hall returned for a touchdown, forcing a fumble, and coming up with an interception of his own on another tipped ball. Coleman recovered a pair of fumbles.
Atlanta lost G Kynan Forney to a shoulder injury in the third quarter. With a bye next weekend, coach Jim Mora doesn't think Forney will miss any games. ... Warner won his first six starts against the Falcons as a member of St. Louis' powerhouse teams from 1999-2001. ... Andersen has kicked five field goals in eight other games, most recently on Dec. 24, 2000.