The Atlanta Falcons were absolutely embarrassed on national television last night, and to make it worse, it came at the hands of a gutted Carolina Panthers team that is led by an interim head coach and third-string quarterback. It wasn’t just one piece of the team that failed either; every facet failed. The offensive and defensive lines were dominated. The special teams were horrendous. The tackling was atrocious, and the quarterback play was reminiscent of a high school game.
Marcus Mariota looked helpless. The offensive line, down Elijah Wilkinson and Matt Hennessy, couldn’t get any push in the run game or keep Mariota upright. And on the off chance they held up in pass protection, the veteran signal caller was inaccurate. It was honestly pathetic to watch, and I feel sorry for everyone outside of Atlanta that had to watch it. I mean… just look at some of these throws.
You won’t even see some of those throws in a middle school game; that’s how bad he was last night. And following the game, Arthur Smith predictably had to answer questions regarding a quarterback change. It went exactly how you’d expect if you’ve followed the first-time head coach at all.
Michael Rothstein of ESPN asked Smith if a quarterback change would be something he would look at before the Falcons’ next game, which is in 10 days against the Bears at home.
To which Smith replied, “I know those are the popular narratives. As whole football team, we’ve got to do a better job, start with myself. We look every week to make sure we’ve got the right guys in the right spots. We gotta protect better, we got to run better.”
Rothstein would press Smith again, “Do you anticipate Marcus being the starter?”
“You can make it about the quarterback, but what about the team?” Smith shot back.
Mariota’s final stat line — 19-of-31 passing for 186 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — isn’t indicative of how poorly he played. And to Smith’s point, the entire team looked terrible. As I said earlier, nearly every facet of the Falcons was outmatched on Thursday night. But it’s time for Smith to turn to the rookie.
Desmond Ridder could look incompetent in practice; we’d never know. But he has to be better than Mariota at this point. Just from a decision making standpoint, the veteran is making rookie mistakes — throwing the ball up and praying, that’s bush league. And if the Falcons are going to have a “screw it and chuck it” mentality, I’d rather see a rookie doing it than an eight-year veteran.
In reality, Smith is going to stick with Mariota because he believes that’s what gives the Falcons the best chance of winning. Until Atlanta is officially eliminated from postseason contention, we won’t see Ridder, even if the fan base sharpens their pitchforks.