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Falcons struggle to adjust defensively in Week 10 loss to Cardinals

Explosive plays continue to be a sore spot for the Falcons defense.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The adjustments didn't work.

Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride caught all four of his targets for 62 yards in the first half of Sunday's Week 10 contest with the Atlanta Falcons. His longest reception through two quarters was a 28-yarder.

McBride then caught four of his five targets for another 69 yards in the second half at State Farm Stadium. His longest reception in the latter two quarters was a 33-yarder.

That second long set up the Cardinals' game-winning field goal, securing their 25-23 victory over the Falcons.

"That's hard," Falcons linebacker Kaden Elliss said. "Because anytime they get something, they're going to want to come back to it. You have to look at it and be like, 'All right, how do I not let this happen again?'

"When you're on the field, you got to let it go. You got to say, 'All right, guys, come on. Refocus on your job. Let's roll.' Then, when you get to the sideline, that's when coaches do a great job of saying, 'All right, this is what happened and this is how we're going to stop it from happening.' Whether it be changing calls, whether it be adjusting the defense, whether it be saying, 'Hey, you got got on that play. You know how they ran it. Get ready for the next time.' So, that's something you have to balance."

Finding and executing that balance has been a struggles for the Falcons in recent losses where explosive plays have really torn the defense up.

"It's been our Achilles heel in the last two weeks," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said.

In the Falcons' Week 8 loss to the Tennessee Titans, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a 61-yard touchdown reception. Then, in the Falcons' Week 9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, running back Alexander Mattison had a 47-yard reception that led to a field goal.

Those examples were just the two longest plays of each game. Eliminating explosive plays such as those has been an emphasis ever since.

"It's definitely in the game and in practice," Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell said. "Things that got us, we got to keep repeating until we get it down so we get it off the tape."

In Sunday's case, the longest play was McBride's 33-yard reception. His eight receptions for a career-high 131 receiving yards were both game-high marks.

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed 19 of his 32 passes for 249 yards. He also had two carries for 13 yards and a touchdown. Murray scored on a 6-yard run in the second quarter.

Falcons linebacker Nate Landman did have a third-quarter interception off Murray, but Atlanta had to settle for a field goal even though Landman gave the offense the ball at the Arizona 14-yard line.

"It's not just one phase," Smith said. "It's all phases with a play here and there. That's been our problem."

The Falcons are now riding a three-game losing streak into their bye week. They'll return to action on Nov. 26 (1 p.m., FOX) when Atlanta hosts the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Another form of balance needs to be accomplished between this Week 10 loss and the eventual Week 12 divisional matchup.

"You got to let the game breathe. That is something you have to do," Elliss said. "At the same time, you got to look at how these first 10 weeks haven't gone the way we wanted, so there's got to be a little extra work put in. It's going to take a little bit of both."

View photos of the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals during Week 10.

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