Falcons to stick with Marcus Mariota at quarterback while still in playoff contention

The Falcons have exceeded expectations this season, rebounding from an 0-2 start to reach .500 and remain in the race for the NFC South. With a talent-starved roster and a brutal cap situation the current leadership inherited, Atlanta keeping its head above water has been a surprise.

The play of Marcus Mariota has been one reason why.

But following two losses in five days behind two of Mariota’s worst performances, Coach Arthur Smith faced questions this week about a possible change at quarterback. It was the first time this season that has happened.

Smith shot down any questions about the team’s QB situation. And sources say Mariota will, indeed, remain the starter for the foreseeable future.

“There is no situation,” Smith told Reporters this week when asked about his QB situation. “There was never a situation — ever.”

In the middle of the NFC South race — just a game out of first place at 4-6 ahead of today’s game against Chicago — the Falcons will rely on one of their leaders to help them stay in it. In helping Atlanta reach 4-4 by October’s end, Mariota’s mix of running and throwing kept defenses honest and attacked them at the same time.

Mariota had three games in a row with a passer rating over 100, helping the Falcons win two of three to get even during one stretch.

The Falcons are tough and physical, with the second-most rushing attempts in the NFL while averaging 160.4 yards on the ground. Mariota keys that. The belief is, while the Falcons still have all their goals in front of them, benching Mariota would be counterproductive while also sending the wrong message to the locker room. It might feel like saying Goodbye to the season. Situations can change, and if the focus shifts from 2022 to the future, perhaps a move would come then.

In short, if the team does move on from Mariota, it’ll likely be because Atlanta can no longer make the Playoffs and the Falcons want to see what Rookie Desmond Ridder can do.

Until that situation changes, it’s Mariota’s show.

The Falcons, sources say, do love the development of the third-rounder from Cincinnati. In the preseason, they flashed poise and accuracy. It was enough to allow the Falcons to have him be their backup, rather than sign a Veteran in case Mariota was injured. That is faith in their rookie.

Most of the NFL never expected the Falcons to even be competitive, considering they entered the season with by far the most dead cap space in the NFL. Essentially, they could only use a little less than 60% of their cap.

That might make it easy to turn their attention to the future. But until and unless they are out of it, don’t expect that to happen just yet.

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