Quarterback Marcus Mariota started his first game since 2019 in Week One and had middling results.
The Falcons lost their season opener to the Saints 27-26, with New Orleans putting together a furious fourth-quarter comeback to win with Wil Lutz‘s 51-yard field goal with 19 seconds left. Mariota was 20-of-33 passing for 215 yards and rushed 12 times for 72 yards with a touchdown. But he had a critical lost fumble inside the 10-yard line late in the third quarter on a possession where Atlanta could have gone up 30-10 with a TD.
But in evaluating Mariota’s performance on Wednesday, head coach Arthur Smith seemed to find there were elements to build on.
“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 in 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.”
Mariota and the Atlanta offense will face another significant challenge this week, heading on the road to take on defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the Rams. We’ll see if Mariota can continue to give off those positive vibes in his second start.