In fact, head coach Arthur Smith was overall happy with what he saw from quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had not started a game since 2019.
“I guess as you look at it, you try to move forward but to answer your question, there were a lot of positives,” Smith said on Wednesday, September 14 during his press conference. “You don’t want to sit there and make excuses and that’s why I’m careful because you don’t want to sound like you’re patting yourself because we don’t know what the end result was but there were. I thought we were pretty effective moving the football and I thought he made some really good decisions for us. So, it was good to see.
“I think he started one game within the last two and a half years, give or take, he was dialed in and ready to go. Made some big-time throws when we needed them and certainly made some plays with his legs and there are a lot of things we ask him to do at the line of scrimmage.”
That’s quite the compliment from Smith––a guy who never hands them out.
Mariota’s Solid Starting Debut Since 2019
The Falcons blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter of their 27-26 loss to New Orleans as the Saints came back and sealed the deal by blocking Younghoe Koo’s field goal attempt with two seconds left on the clock.
Nonetheless, Mariota had an overall solid performance as he was 20-of-33 passing for 215 yards and rushed 12 times for 72 yards with a touchdown.
Mariota did have a critical lost fumble inside the 10-yard line late in the game where Atlanta could have gone up 30-10 with a TD. But he owned up to his mistake and is ready to move forward.
“I’m a competitor,” Mariota said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m going to continue to play like I’ve always played since I was a kid. I think there’s certain situations where I would love to have slid, especially on the turnover but at the end of the day, it’s the nature of the beast. You learn, you live, and you grow and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Mariota heads west for Week 2 against the LA Rams and he’s surprisingly excited to face some of the best defenders in the league.
“You look at their defense, right? They’ve got three levels of All-Pro players,” Mariota said. “You got a guy in the front seven, you got another guy in the intermediate, and you got a guy in the back end, so I think that’s a great challenge, especially for this team. We were young and we were kind of still learning the ropes of the league, because that’s what it is. Week in and week out, you’re going to play some of the best players in the world and you just got to look at it as a great opportunity.”
Smith Isn’t Phased By 1 Loss
The Falcons have not won a season opener since 2017, which is also the last time Atlanta made a postseason appearance.
And heading into this season the expectations were very, very low for Atlanta––and they continue to be low for Atlanta. However, one loss on the season thus far isn’t phasing Smith.
“You guys wrote our obituary back in May,” Smith said in the post-game press conference. “You’ll continue to write our obituary. Who cares? We have 16 games and if we don’t learn from this and get better — We gotta go play L.A. They got a three-day jump on us. We’ll watch the tape, we’ll look for corrections and then we have to get going on the Rams. . . . Write whatever y’all want. Same guys that ranked us 45th. You buried us in May, bury us again. We don’t care. We’ll get back to work.”
It’s easy to harp on the negatives and overlook the positives like Marcus Mariota, who didn’t toss an interception all game and showed off his dual-threat ability, racking up 72 rushing yards and score. Or rookie wide receiver Drake London, who tallied five catches for 74 yards in his first real NFL debut and of course Patterson’s near-perfect first outing of the season.
We’ll see if the team can come together through for all four quarters on Sunday to keep up with LA.