Steven Jackson returned to the NFL playing field on Sunday, an accomplishment No. 39 has been working toward since injuring his hamstring in week two.

But the outcome of that return was less than Steven and his Falcons teammates had hoped for and they dropped their fifth game of the season, 27-13 to the Arizona Cardinals.

Steven made his return to the gridiron Sunday, but the Cardinals defense smothered he and the Falcons running game (Getty Images).No. 39 ran the ball 11 times and caught three passes, but he was able to gain just 13 total yards. Afterward, SJ39 complimented the Cardinals defense, but also pulled no punches when it came to his personal performance and noted that he expects much more of  himself.

 “It was tough sledding today,” he said. “The Arizona defense came out there and did a really good job against the run. Definitely not the production that I wanted to see out of myself.”

In addition to their strong play on defense, particularly against the run, Arizona found offensive success early in the game, which set the tone. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for two touchdowns in the first half and Arizona running back Andre Ellington added an 80-yard touchdown dash to give the Cards a 21-6 lead heading into the third quarter.

The Falcons must have more balance on offense if they plan to strong together victories (Atlanta Falcons photo).

Because of the early deficit, and Arizona’s success in stopping the run, the Falcons turned to quarterback Matt Ryan who uncorked a season-high 61 passing attempts. With the running game stalled, Steven found himself in a lot of pass blocking situations in his first game back. But the unbalanced Atlanta attack allowed Arizona to exploit matchups, which to four interceptions.

Ryan said afterward that the Falcons must score early and establish the run to create an offensive balance.

“Again, falling behind kind of dictated what we had to do there in the second half,” he said “We had to throw the ball to try and get ourselves back in the game. We certainly have to be more balanced.”


Sunday’s loss dropped the Falcons (2-5) a little further from the pack in the NFC playoff race as they head into a critical divisional match-up next week with the Carolina Panthers (4-3).

With just two months remaining in the NFL season, S-Jax knows the Falcons have to find consistency on offense — and fast — to win games going forward.

“We need to get the balance going, period,” Jackson said. “We need to be able to run the ball. We need to be able to convert on third down. We need to be able to do a lot of things better than what we did [Sunday].”

The Falcons travel to Charlotte next weekend to take on the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET and the game can be viewed on FOX.