The Falcons’ loss to the Jets last night wasn’t all for nothing. After Atlanta took a 16-0 lead in the first half behind bright performances from both Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, New York rallied in the second half with backups to secure the victory. But the loss shouldn’t overshadow the brilliant play from the Falcons quarterbacks.
Marcus Mariota led Atlanta to scores on two of his three drives, going 6-of-10 for 132 yards and a touchdown. He hit Kyle Pitts on a 52-yard shot play to kick start the offense in which the tight end phenom beat potential starter Bryce Hall; if the ball weren’t slightly underthrown, Pitts would’ve walked into the endzone.
Kyle Pitts is ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/cSp8KaClNc
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 23, 2022
Mariota hit KhaDarel Hodge for a 13-yard pickup the following play, then found a wide-open Anthony Firkser for 39 yards on the next snap. The touchdown strike to Olamide Zaccueaus was a beautifully executed concept that had to be on time, which is something the veteran signal caller has to work on as we inch closer to the regular season.
That's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, we like it.#ATLvsNYJ || #DirtyBirds pic.twitter.com/GoyZWPUJmS
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 23, 2022
Ridder was equally, if not more impressive, going 10-of-13 for 143 yards on three drives, two of which ended in field goals that were marred by penalties. I say it was potentially more impressive because Ridder was playing with backups, who were doing everything they could — Jalen Mayfield and Rick Leonard in particular — to keep the Falcons out of the endzone with poor blocking and penalties.
Ridder is doing everything the coaching staff is asking of him. He looks poised in the pocket, never flinching while delivering accurate passes into tight windows on time. Although Mariota hasn’t done anything to relinquish the starting job, the rookie is making a case to be the starter. It won’t happen because Mariota is playing good ball right now. Still, it’s indicative of where the Cincinnati product is at in his development because he could start if Atlanta needed.
Fans have begun to witness what Arthur Smith’s offense with these more mobile quarterbacks will look like. The Falcons will run the ball via zone scheme while running play action off them. Most route concepts feature some combination of a dig or drag route over the middle, which Ridder looked very comfortable throwing. It’s encouraging to see Smith dial up these vanilla concepts in the preseason and still finding success. Falcons fans should be excited to see what he can do in a regular season matchup with these signal callers under center.
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