Falcons bench Marcus Mariota in favor of Desmond Ridder, source says

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons have made a change at quarterback, turning to rookie Desmond Ridder and bench veteran Marcus Mariota, a source told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein Thursday.

The quarterback change comes after the Falcons lost four of five games while surpassing 20 points just once.

Following Sunday’s 19-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Falcons coach Arthur Smith opened up about the possibility of Mariota moving to Ridder, saying they would evaluate each position during bye week.

Mariota had missed several open receivers during the loss to the Steelers, continuing a problem of the season.

The Falcons selected Ridder in the third round of this year’s draft after four years as a pick in Cincinnati. The plan all along had been to develop Ridder behind Mariota, who started the first 13 games of the season.

Ridder worked behind Mariota throughout training camp, and while he played a lot in preseason, he was never able to oust Mariota before the season started.

Once the regular season started, Ridder managed the scout team, collecting players almost every day after practice for extra replays. He also worked with Mariota, asking him questions about everything he saw to help with his preparation.

Ridder won 44 games in Cincinnati, the third most in college football history, and never lost at home. But he said he accepts that he would be the backup at Atlanta and learn from that before hopefully becoming the top guy.

That time has come.

Mariota has been through this before. In 2019, the Tennessee Titans benched him in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Mariota has often spoken about this experience – what he learned from it and how he dealt with it.

He signed with Atlanta in March, the same day the Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. The deal reunited Mariota with Smith, who had been the offensive coordinator in his final season with the Titans.

At the start of the season, it looked like reunification could work out. Mariota handled offense well and had one of the best games of his career in Week 6. He completed 92.9% of his passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns while rushing six times for 50 yards and one touchdown in a 28-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers, which earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors .

Mariota added an extra dimension to the Falcons’ offense with his ability to run — he has 85 career-high yards and four touchdowns for 438 times — in their run-heavy offensive scheme.

However, over the past month, Mariota’s performances have waned as Atlanta gave him more passing attempts. During her 1-4 stretch, Mariota never completed more than 65% of his passes in a game and twice under 55%. He also never threw for more than 186 yards, despite having at least 20 tries in each contest while throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions.

This season, Mariota is 184 of 300 for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Mariota missed 20.5% of his shots this season, level on points with New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who ranked third-worst in the NFL. The league average is 15.2%. Receivers only dropped 2% of his shots.

In college, Ridder was 810 of 1,304 for 10,239 yards, 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He also ran the ball 501 times for 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35211209/falcons-bench-marcus-mariota-favor-desmond-ridder-source-says Falcons bench Marcus Mariota in favor of Desmond Ridder, source says

Emma Bowman

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