Falcons vs. Chiefs
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
ATLANTA — Taylor Gabriel took two short passes for touchdowns and the Atlanta Falcons returned from a bye week to add to Arizona’s misery, blowing out the Cardinals 38-19 on Sunday.
Gabriel, who was cut by the winless Cleveland Browns before the season, scored on plays of 35 and 25 yards that showed off his speed.
His second score finished the Cardinals, who began the season touted as a Super Bowl contender but have been one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams.
The Falcons (7-4) began the day leading the NFC South and moved a step closer to their first playoff berth since 2012.
The Cardinals (4-6-1) have lost two straight and three of their past four, putting them in danger of missing the postseason a season after reaching the NFC championship game.
Coach Bruce Arians was on the sideline after falling ill and being briefly hospitalized early in the week, but it did little to inspire his team.
Arizona got off to a strong start, burning the Falcons for eight plays of at least 13 yards on their first two possessions. Jermaine Gresham capped the first drive with a 1-yard touchdown catch, but a botched shotgun snap forced the Cardinals to settle for a field goal and a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
The Falcons surged ahead late in the first half when Matt Ryan tossed a screen pass to Gabriel, who picked up a couple of key blocks and outran everyone else to the end zone for his first score.
Arizona cut it to 17-13 when Chris Catanzaro hit a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the half, the Cardinals taking advantage of an interception off a bobbled pass by Atlanta star Julio Jones.
Tevin Coleman’s 2-yard touchdown run capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive that extended Atlanta’s lead to 24-13 late in the third quarter. Then it was Gabriel with the clinching score. He took a quick pass in the flat, sped down the left sideline and reached the pylon with a soaring dive.
Gabriel’s two touchdowns doubled his scoring output for the season. He finished with four catches for 75 yards, coming up big for the Falcons on a day when Jones was held to four catches for 35 yards matched up mostly against Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Peterson was called for a couple of pass interference penalties while defending Jones, both of which contributed to Atlanta scores.
After being fined for a vicious hit in Atlanta’s previous game, rookie safety Keanu Neal could be taking another blow to his wallet.
Neal was penalized in the fourth quarter for unnecessary roughness against Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
It looked as though both players lowered their helmets before making contact, but it was Neal picking up the flag.
Neal was fined $24,309 for his helmet-to-helmet blow on Philadelphia receiver Jordan Matthews. Neal wasn’t penalized for that play, and insisted afterward that he’s not a dirty player.
Cardinals: Return home to face Washington next Sunday.
Falcons: Host the Kansas City Chiefs, the only team remaining on Atlanta’s schedule with a winning record.