ATLANTA (AP) — For the first time in three years, David Blough trotted on the field as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
His first victory will have to wait.
Blough did a commendable job on short notice leading the Arizona offense, but the banged-up Cardinals lost their sixth in a row when Younghoe Koo kicked a chip-shot field goal on the last play of the game to give the Atlanta Falcons a 20-19 victory Sunday.
It was a meaningless game in the standings, with both teams eliminated from the playoffs.
But it sure meant a lot to Blough.
The 27-year-old Texan, who signed with the Cardinals (4-12) about two weeks ago, wound up being Arizona's fourth starting QB in four weeks with starter Kyler Murray out for the season and Colt McCoy struggling with concussion symptoms.
Blough completed 24 of 40 for 222 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Trey McBride, and the Cardinals had a shot at their first victory since Nov. 13 when Matt Prater booted a 57-yard field goal with 4:57 remaining.
Arizona never got the ball back. The Falcons (6-10) drove nearly the length of the field, draining the clock before Koo booted it through from 21 yards as time expired.
“I’m the fourth quarterback in four weeks. I get it. It’s not an ideal situation. It’s not ideal for anybody,” Blough said. “I don’t know what next week holds."
Undrafted out of Purdue, Blough wound up with the Detroit Lions during their woeful 2019 season. He got a chance to start the final five games after Matthew Stafford was injured.
The Lions lost them all to close out a 3-12-1 campaign, with Blough completing 54% of his passes for 984 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions.
It seemed that would be his only chance.
Blough played briefly in two games over the last two seasons and was toiling on Minnesota’s practice squad when the Cardinals signed him on Dec. 14, shortly after Murray was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Blough quickly worked his way up the depth chart.
McCoy went out the following week with a head injury, giving way to Trace McSorley. After a 19-16 loss to Tampa Bay on Christmas Day, the Cardinals decided to go with quarterback No. 4 on New Year's Day.
“I started five games in Detroit, and they didn’t go the way I would’ve liked them to,” Blough said. “I’m just thankful for an opportunity because they don’t come around every day in this league.”
Still, the result was a familiar one for Arizona and embattled coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose roster has been ravaged by injuries.
For the fifth time in the last six games, the Cardinals failed to score 20 points. They had plenty of chances at the Falcons end of the field, but wound up settling for four field goals. Prater missed another try from 43 yards.
“It’s frustrating. You want to win,” Blough said. “We didn’t do enough, had to settle for too many field goals and at the end of the day, that’s on me and the shoulders of the offense."
Kingsbury was appreciative of the effort.
“Guys out there, just learning the system, haven’t gotten a ton of reps all season and they’re out there trying to compete and win games,” the coach said.
The Cardinals will have one more chance to send longtime defensive stalwart J.J. Watt out with a win in the season finale at San Francisco.
The three-time NFL defensive player of the year surprised nearly everyone by announcing his upcoming retirement after Arizona's final home game.
Watt had a sack against the Falcons, pushing him to 10 1/2 for the year — his first double-figure sacks season since 2018. He also had a couple of hits on Falcons rookie QB Desmond Ridder.
Watt knows he's done after next week.
Kingsbury could be facing the same prospect after a miserable season.
The coach is 28-36-1 in four seasons as the Cardinals coach, with only a single one-and-done playoff appearance.
“You want to win,” KIngsbury said. “As a staff, you can’t say enough about guys playing their tails off trying to win. Keeping us in games. It’s kind of been the story of the season, not being able to finish at the end.”
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