ATLANTA — John Brown made a strong statement his lingering quadriceps injury is no concern as he caught two touchdown passes to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a 24-14 preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night.
Brown showed off his speed when he caught a 28-yard scoring pass from Carson Palmer and a 21-yarder from Drew Stanton, each in the second quarter.
The game was the first event held at the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There are ongoing issues with the stadium’s complicated retractable roof, which is expected to remain closed indefinitely. There were no glitches in the stadium’s other bragging points, including a big halo video board.
Brown’s explosive showing confirmed his status as the Cardinals’ top downfield threat after he had been slowed by the injury. Last week, coach Bruce Arians said if Brown “can’t run long enough, we’ve got to replace him.”
Brown’s ability to recover quickly from injuries is affected by his 2016 diagnosis with sickle cell trait. He also left camp this week for a funeral in Miami and rejoined the team Friday night in Atlanta.
“I’m not 100 percent, but I’m feeling way better than I did during training camp,” Brown said. “I’m about 80 percent.”
The Atlanta offense fell flat in the stadium unveiling. Matt Ryan’s pass on the Falcons’ first play was intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu.
In the second quarter, Falcons backup Matt Schaub lost a fumble on his first snap when hit by linebacker Markus Golden. Chandler Jones recovered for Arizona (2-2), and one play later Brown made an over-the-shoulder grab for his 21-yard TD.
Arizona rookie James Summers had a 5-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones made his preseason debut but did not have a catch. He has made a full recovery from offseason foot surgery and was targeted on a long pass from Ryan in the first quarter.
Atlanta’s No. 3 quarterback Matt Simms threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to rookie Josh Magee late in the game.
Cardinals starting running back David Johnson did not play. Chris Johnson had six carries for 31 yards with a fumble that was recovered by guard Evan Boehm.
Ryan, sharp in limited playing time in the first two preseason games for the Falcons (0-3), completed only 4 of 11 passes for 36 yards. Palmer completed 8 of 13 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Stanton, who beat out Blaine Gabbert to be Arizona’s backup, completed 4 of 6 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown.
There were 70,237 tickets distributed. The capacity for the new stadium is 71,000. It appeared at least one-third of the seats were empty.
The stadium impressed in its much-anticipated debut.
“So far I love it,” Atlanta-area resident Brandon Denton said, adding he’s attended games at San Francisco and Dallas.
“This one is holding up and actually exceeding the expectations of what I was wanting to see here,” he said.
RIGHT GUARD BATTLE CONTINUES
The Falcons’ competition between Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland for the starting job at right guard is not settled. Schweitzer started but shared time with Garland.
“Next week it might be different,” Quinn said, adding he expects the battle to continue through the preseason. “We’re going to take this all the way,” he said.
Cardinals: Backup DT Olsen Pierre suffered a concussion. … OT Ulrick John walked off the field with an ankle injury.
Falcons: Rookie RB Brian Hill, competing with Terron Ward for a backup spot, left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Backup OT Kevin Graf also suffered an ankle injury and LB LaRoy Reynolds suffered a shoulder injury. … RB Devonta Freeman (concussion protocol) did not play. He was on the field but not in uniform for pregame drills.