FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Arthur Smith was very clear about three things during his press conference on Monday.
No. 1: He does not believe there is a quarterback situation in Atlanta following Marcus Mariota's performance against Carolina last Thursday night.
"There is no situation. There was never a situation, ever. Never," he said.
"... You lose two games in five days and everybody wants to panic, but we're right in the middle of it. We're not where we want to be but the reality of it is that you're right in the middle of a playoff race."
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No. 2: He does not place blame for Thursday's loss on Mariota's shoulders.
"There are a couple plays where you can certainly put the blame on him. But there's blame to go around operationally," Smith said. "If there's pressure right there, I don't know what to tell the quarterback when he's looking down to pick the ball up because it's a low snap, he gets up and there's a defender right in his face. That's kind of hard to overcome there. It's the little things that add up to it that we can do better, and we have at times. I wouldn't pinpoint just on one player."
And finally, No. 3: He does not feel the time has come to potentially make a move to Desmond Ridder at quarterback.
"Everything is up for grabs every week, so if we felt like one move could certainly be the difference in us winning or losing then we'd make the move. But we're not at that point at a lot of spots," Smith said.
And later, when asked for clarification on whether or not anyone will see Ridder take over QB1 responsibilities this week, Smith added: "We're playing the guys who have been playing... If we were going to make a change, I'd tell you. You'd see it at practice.
While Smith said he understands why these questions about Mariota and Ridder have been asked of him during his last three press conferences since the Falcons loss to Carolina, he considers this topic of conversation to be "low-hanging fruit."
Smith reiterated that the Falcons issues stem not from Mariota, but the offensive operation as a whole.
"We need to avoid negative plays," Smith said. "I don't think an offense is going to be very effective if you're off track. We've been pretty damn good when we've been on track. We just haven't been as consistent lately. Those are things we can eliminate. And that's not just on the quarterback."
In much of the same line of thinking as his on Thursday night, Smith continued to point to protection breakdowns and holding penalties on Monday afternoon as what truly kept the Falcons from moving the chains in their last game.
Again, he didn't - and wouldn't - put the offense's lack of production at times on Mariota or his decision-making.
"It's not the reason that we lost the last two games," he concluded.
We take a monochrome look at the game against the Carolina Panthers on November 10, 2022.