cloudyn.png
Thursday February 2nd, 2023 3:17AM

Mariota's play only 1 of many problems for slumping Falcons

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATLANTA (AP) — Two losses in five days have left Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith again fielding questions about quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The Falcons are 4-6, falling out of a first-place tie in the weak NFC South. Even after Mariota and the offense struggled in Thursday night's 25-15 loss at Carolina, Smith gave no indication he's ready to give rookie Desmond Ridder an opportunity to lead the team.

Smith dismissed postgame queries about Mariota as “popular narratives” and “the easy questions to ask.”

The difficult reality for the Falcons is that quarterback play is only one issue on a long list of problems exposed by the two straight losses. Atlanta lost the battles on both lines of scrimmage against the Panthers, failing to protect Mariota and finding no way to stop Carolina's running game.

The Falcons were a surprise team in the NFL at 4-4 because Smith successfully built a running game that helped protect a suspect passing attack and weak defense. The Panthers stacked the box on defense against the run, used pressure to force Mariota into making bad decisions and were more successful running the ball.

No Atlanta running back gained more than 32 yards and the Falcons didn't have a rushing touchdown.

Mariota was the leading rusher with 43 yards on three carries and said he should have run more instead of taking five sacks. He threw for 186 yards with two touchdowns and an interception — and said he forced too many passes.

“I was playing a little bit outside of myself,” Mariota said. "Tried to make a play too many times and it hurt our team.”

Mariota isn't the only NFL quarterback to struggle with a new team this season. But Smith isn't ready to label Mariota as a failed experiment. When asked if he considered putting Ridder in the game, Smith said, “No. We’re trying to win a game.”

That was hardly a vote of confidence in Ridder, the third-round pick from Cincinnati who was impressive at times in the preseason.

Smith's loyalty to Mariota is understandable. The two also worked together in Tennessee, where Smith was the offensive coordinator. Mariota lost his starting job with the Titans in 2019 but his dual-threat skills have been a good fit in Atlanta's run-first offense — at least as long as the Falcons were winning.

If the Falcons continue to lose ground in the NFL's worst division, the spotlight on Smith's quarterback decision will only intensify. and the Panthers' winning strategy of loading their run defense and putting pressure on Mariota will be duplicated by future opponents.

The Falcons' challenge is to generate better offensive balance, with or without Mariota.

WHAT'S WORKING

Very little went right for Atlanta, but a 26-yard run by Mariota helped to make the running totals look respectable. The Falcons averaged 5.5 yards on 25 carries, even though Tyler Allgeier was held to only 20 yards on eight carries.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Tight end Kyle Pitts had only two catches for 28 yards on eight targets. The 2021 first-round pick thrived as a rookie last season, setting a team record for receiving yards (1,026) for a tight end. He has only 25 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns through nine games.

STOCK UP

Wide receiver Khadarel Hodge, playing for his fourth team in his fifth NFL season, finally had his first career touchdown catch. His 25-yard reception from Mariota in the fourth quarter provided the feel-good moment of a long night for the offense. He had two catches for 37 yards.

STOCK DOWN

The usually reliable Younghoe Koo missed two extra-point attempts, his first two misses of the season. He made each of his 30 attempts in 2021 and had been good on 71 consecutive attempts before his misses. Koo was kicking in wet and windy conditions and he made a 33-yard field goal.

KEY NUMBER

Minus-15 — The Falcons wilted on offense when they took possession at their own 34 with 2:33 remaining and a chance to pull even or take the lead. Two sacks, a 1-yard loss and an incompletion resulted in a loss of 15 yards and a change of possession on downs, setting up a Panthers field goal.

NEXT STEPS

After giving up 232 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Carolina, the Falcons will face the league's top rushing team when Chicago visits Atlanta on Nov. 20.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

  • Associated Categories: Sports, Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - NFL
© Copyright 2023 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Mariota's play only 1 of many problems for slumping Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have fallen to 4-6 and out of a first-place tie in the weak NFC South
1:14PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Zelenskyy says Ukrainian special military units in Kherson
Ukraine’s president says that special military units have entered the city of Kherson
12:55PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Biden tightens methane emissions rule amid push for more oil
The Biden administration has ramped up efforts to reduce methane emissions, targeting the oil and gas industry for its role in global warming even as President Joe Biden has pressed energy producers for more oil drilling to lower prices at the gasoline pump
12:53PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Bills say decision on QB Allen is 'hour-to-hour' situation
Bills coach Sean McDermott says the decision on whether quarterback Josh Allen will play is an “hour-to-hour situation.”
11:50AM ( 1 hour ago )
Unusual venues make nonconference games more memorable
Two of the more notable games on Friday’s college basketball schedule are taking place on an aircraft carrier and in a baseball stadium
9:27AM ( 3 hours ago )
New quarterbacks not working out across NFL this season
A vast majority of the quarterback changes made in the offseason have not worked out for NFL contenders looking to stabilize the position and win right away
6:00AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Sports
Falcons LT Matthews hurriedly joins team after birth of son
Atlanta Falcons starting left tackle Jake Matthews has arrived for Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers in time to play after his wife, Meggi, gave birth to a baby boy earlier in the day
7:43PM ( 17 hours ago )
3 ex-officers plead to lesser charges in girl's shooting
Three former police officers who were charged in the killing of an 8-year-old girl when they opened fire toward a crowd leaving a Philadelphia-area high school football game pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 counts each of reckless endangerment
6:02PM ( 19 hours ago )
New C-USA TV deal to shift October games to weeknights
Conference USA’s new media rights deal with ESPN and CBS will include midweek scheduling of football games throughout October
5:02PM ( 20 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Tropical Storm Nicole remnants rain from Georgia to New York
Tropical Storm Nicole is now a depression dumping heavy rain in places from Georgia to New York
10:55AM ( 2 hours ago )
In election, support for abortion rights was about much more
Support for abortion rights drove women to the polls in Tuesday’s elections
7:16AM ( 6 hours ago )
Tropical Depression Nicole moves through Georgia
Tropical Depression Nicole was moving through Georgia on Friday morning after a day of causing havoc in Florida as a hurricane and then a tropical storm
6:01AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
Running game having biggest impact in decades in NFL
For all the talk of how the NFL has become a passing league, the run game is having a bit of a renaissance in 2022
12:50PM ( 1 day ago )
Fox's NFL pregame will do Veterans Day show from Qatar
Fox’s NFL pregame show is going international for the first time in 13 years for the annual Veterans Day show
8:53AM ( 1 day ago )
Many positive, negative surprises mark NFL season's 1st half
The New York Jets, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins could end long playoff droughts while the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers are well below
6:04AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - NFL
Zelenskyy says Ukrainian special military units in Kherson
Ukraine’s president says that special military units have entered the city of Kherson
12:55PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Biden tightens methane emissions rule amid push for more oil
The Biden administration has ramped up efforts to reduce methane emissions, targeting the oil and gas industry for its role in global warming even as President Joe Biden has pressed energy producers for more oil drilling to lower prices at the gasoline pump
12:53PM ( 25 minutes ago )
In Egypt, host of COP27, a small step toward green energy
The Arab world’s most populous country is taking steps to convert to renewable energy
12:52PM ( 25 minutes ago )
F1 team Mercedes suspends sponsorship deal with FTX
Formula One team Mercedes says it has suspended its sponsorship deal with FTX, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges
12:49PM ( 29 minutes ago )
AP sources: US border agency leader is being forced out
The head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is being forced out of his job leading the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, according to two people familiar with the matter
12:45PM ( 33 minutes ago )