“I would say the biggest difference was just finishing in the red zone,” Mariota said. “We had opportunities — multiple opportunities to go in there and score touchdowns and kind of put the game away. We allowed them, as an offense, to stick around, and that’s something we have to get back and look at and correct.”
Mariota had several backbreaking miscues in Week 1. He lost a fumble at the Saints’ five-yard line in the third quarter while also botching a snap on a third and one in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a punt and a New Orleans drive that ended in a game-winning field goal.
In Week 2, Mariota didn’t quite improve in these areas. He had a pair of interceptions at critical junctures. The former Heisman winner just hasn’t been good enough. I will give him and the Falcons offense credit, though. Mariota has managed the offense well and flashed at times. His mobility allows him to extend plays when pressure arrives and gives Arthur Smith the ability to be creative with his play design.
On the flip side, Mariota has been far too inconsistent with his reads, field vision, and patience in the pocket. That’s not to say the Falcons can’t win with him under center. Smith’s group has been much improved in the run game due to changes at left guard and center. The offensive line isn’t a top 10 unit, but it is miles better than it was last season. When Atlanta’s offense has been able to establish the run, the play action facet of the offense has thrived and really been the one circumstance where Mariota has found success. When he drops back without play action, his play is significantly hindered.
The results have not warranted a quarterback change just yet. Desmond Ridder is undoubtedly waiting for his opportunity, but at this point, it’s still Mariota’s job. If we see the same miscues in the next few games, the calls to see the rookie will come from all corners of the NFL world. I’d give the veteran four or five more games before he has to be genuinely concerned about losing his job to Ridder.