The Falcons have won three straight home games and are looking for a fourth on Sunday against the L.A. Chargers.
That would be a big-time win both for the team and a reward for a Mercedes-Benz crowd that has been into these games all season long. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said Thursday that he has been impressed by the MBS energy and volume and hopes to have another energetic atmosphere in Week 9.
Beating the Chargers will be no easy task. We'll dive into the nuts and bolts (yeah, pun intended) of this matchup, what's on the horizon and, of course, we'll look a bit more at the team's quarterback situation because, y'all can't get enough of that topic.
Let's take a look at all that in this Friday mailbag.
Jeff Sanders from Marietta, Ga.
People often write in upset about targets for Drake London and Kyle Pitts, but I wanted to focus on Drake after I read Tori's notebook talking about the impact he has made. I still think he needs the ball more, but how do you think he has done through the first half of the season. I think he has been pretty good.
Bair: I agree with you, Jeff. He has made a real impact whether he has the ball or not. We know he's a strong and physical in the pattern and attacks the football. My favorite receiving stat for London thus far is that he doesn't have a single drop. Not one. As a rookie.
And, if you watch that Panthers game tape, he was essential in Damiere Byrd's touchdown as a downfield blocker. You also saw him SPRINTING down the field on Marcus Mariota's overtime 30-yard run to make a block. Guys don't always do that. And the extra effort is being recognized in the building. Marcus Mariota mentioned it in his press conference, but Arthur Smith summed London's impact up best.
"That speaks to the kind of teammate he is," the Falcons head coach said.
Did the Falcons know they'd get all the off-the-ball benefits London is giving them?
"We saw certain characteristics," Smith said. That was part of the mindset that I liked about Drake other than the obvious. I always think the easiest part, when you look at it – all of us in here can look and see if somebody's fast and whether they can catch – those are the easy ones. It's the other stuff, the fit, some of its luck.
"…With somebody like Drake, there are a lot of characteristics that we liked. The skillset we thought was unique. That doesn't mean there weren't other really good receivers there. He was just a good fit for us, and you're starting to see that. He's got a bright future if he can stay on this path."
Eric Breier from Augusta, Ga.
I know we still don't know for sure if Cordarrelle Patterson is going to play this week, but how do you think the carries will be divided if he's back. I think Caleb [Huntley] and Tyler [Allgeier] have earned their place in this running game.
Bair: Cordarrelle Patterson was essentially the Falcons feature back before he was sidelined with injury, roughly halfway through that Week 4 win against the Browns. Damien Williams was on IR after an injury early in Week 1 and Tyler Allgeier was untested/unproven.
Things look a bit different now, with Allgeier and Caleb Huntley, proving productive runners and solid scheme fits. They can take some of the interior runs [and the hits that come with them] off of Patterson. It also might free Patterson up to move around the formation as he did a year ago. I still think Patterson will work a ton from the backfield – he was too impactful to not use him there – where he can be a real weapon working in tandem with Marcus Mariota.
There will be carries to go around when Patterson comes back. That's an important distinction. We're not quite sure if he'll be activated off injured reserve in time to play the Chargers. Patterson says he feels good, but that's no guarantee he'll play. If the Falcons must go another game without him, Huntley and Allgeier will be ready.
Andrew Neito from Corona, Calif.
Bair!! What's up.! I am probably in the minority when I say I am happy with Marcus but still excited for Desmond. I am personally rooting for Desmond to become the starter next season and keep Marcus as a high quality back up. However, with Marcus getting better weekly I have a theoretical question. If Marcus takes this team to playoffs and wins at least one playoff game, do you think Desmond gets put on ice again?
Bair: If Marcus Mariota continues to play at this level or above and his team stays in serious contention for a playoff spot, I have a difficult time imagining the Falcons making a quarterback switch. Why risk ruining a good thing?
Mariota has fared better lately and time and again players have spoken glowingly about his leadership. The locker room supports him. And you'd be replacing Mariota with an unknown rookie.
I agree that we need to see what Desmond Ridder's got at some point – I think he's going to be pretty darn good – but a playoff chase isn't the time for that. That's especially true if the NFC South remains tight, which I expect it will throughout the year. If circumstances changed we can re-evaluate this topic. That's my stance on Mariota as the starter and the need to see Ridder in the current context of the season.
Take a look as the team puts in the work in Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.