Marcus Mariota silences calls for Desmond Ridder with near-perfect performance vs 49ers

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The Falcons dominated the 49ers for much of the afternoon on Sunday to the tune of a 28-14 victory. Despite most analysts picking the Niners and Vegas oddsmakers having the visitor as touchdown favorites, Atlanta continues to put a better product on the field than their roster would indicate. And a large reason for the upset was Marcus Mariota‘s excellent play, which completely silenced calls for Desmond Ridder.

Mariota completed 13-of-14 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, connecting on his first 13 passes of the game, finishing with a passer rating of 144.6 — the best as a starter since the 2018 season. Mariota also added 50 yards on the ground on six runs, including a touchdown. His mobility was often the reason the Falcons continued to move the ball in this one, extending drives and converting third downs.

“My goal was to be efficient during the day and give our guys opportunities to make plays,” Mariota said after the game.

Even more impressive, Mariota’s performance came against a Niners’ team that ranked No. 1 in total defense. Three different players eclipsed 50 yards rushing, including Mariota, as the Falcons totaled 168 yards on the ground against a San Francisco defense that was allowing an average of 71.4 yards per game.

“I truly believe when we’re able to run the ball that way that we do and make some plays in the pass game, we tough to defend,” Mariota said after the game. “The more that we can show our versatility, I think it’s going to be beneficial for us the rest of the year.”

The Falcons started the scoring on their opening drive; it was also the first first-half touchdown the 49ers have given up all season. Mariota converted a third-and-short with his legs, then found MyCole Pruitt on a 2-yard passing touchdown to give Atlanta the early lead.

Mariota scored another touchdown when the team was tied at 14. On a zone read, the veteran kept the ball and hurried to the corner of the end zone to give the Falcons a 21-14 lead with less than a minute remaining in the first half.

“It was one of those plays that happened within the flow of the game,” Mariota said. “I saw a lane. I tried to crease it and I felt like I got enough (yards) and tried to get down.”

That drive was a difference-maker to me. Mariota led the 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive in which the quarterback scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-long and then completed a 20-yard pass to Drake London into the Niners’ red zone.

“That was a huge third-down conversion,” Smith told media members. “Those are the plays … He can hurt you outside the pocket and in the quarterback run game.”

The veteran’s second passing touchdown was a seven-yard strike to Kyle Pitts, who recorded his first touchdown on American soil midway through the third quarter.

Mariota’s play has silenced calls for the rookie Ridder, but Arthur Smith’s comments leading up to the game had probably already nixed the idea.

Photographer: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

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