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Bair Mail: On 2nd-and-goal interception vs. Commanders, Marcus Mariota and Drake London

I love asking for mailbag questions in the instant replay. You get such passionate responses right after a game. That's great to see how much Falcons fans care following a win or a loss.


They can center around a few controversial moments; they were both clear and present after a difficult 19-14 loss to the Washington Commanders.

That second-and-goal pick is obvious. Marcus Mariota's always a feature player. Drake London is, too, especially after relatively low numbers even with Kyle Pitts unavailable. Let's touch on those topics in this Monday aftermath edition of Bair Mail:

Tim West from Lexington, Tenn.

I know you will get a ton of emails about the 2nd and goal interception, but I have to ask why you would throw in that spot? You have run effectively and best case you score leaving Washington a minute to score a field goal and worse case the pass is incomplete which stops the clock or what actually happened which is an interception. I just can't understand the thought process.

Bair: You're right, Tim. I got dozens of questions on this 2nd-and-goal play. It's mostly about run vs. pass. I don't love those debates. I agree, though, that it seemed like the Falcons probably could've gained four yards over three downs, with the way the offensive line was playing and with how varied and confusing the Falcons rushing attack can be.

The Commanders knew a run was an option, and pass there was a change-up. The play design was good, with a high percentage pass to a reliable target.

The important part here is to listen to what Arthur Smith said postgame for insight.

"I'm not gonna give the scheme," Smith said. "We had a wide-open look. They made a play. Ball tipped and it bounced up there and the guy got up under it. You can like it all you want, it was open. But they had a say and they made a play."

The look told Mariota where to go with the ball. After watching the play several times, the latter seems to be the case. And Cordarrelle Patterson was open. Would've been an easy pitch and catch without the tipped ball. Chris Lindstrom blocked Daron Payne well. The guy just got a hand up. Maybe, if we're being nit-picky, maybe a little loftier and a bit more of a leading throw may have helped but, in Mariota's defense, Payne's hand went up really late. After he had thrown the ball. There was a clear window. Until there wasn't.

If the play works Smith and Mariota are heroes. It didn't, so they're taking heat. Such is life for a head coach and quarterback, who are judged on results over individual performance.

Zackery Goodnight from Dallas, Tex.

Just read Tori's article on when does unfortunate become unacceptable. I think this as a whole is how many Falcon fans have been feeling. From the outside looking in, we obviously see things different because you guys interact with the players and coaches constantly. We at home usually can only see the final product on the field. I think this is why so often we call for Mariota to be benched. In Tori's article she points to unfortunate events. Most are at the hands of Mariota. Not all. It's a team sport. And I don't think Mariota had a bad game against Washington, but at what point is it time to just move on at the most prolific position on the field? We have now seen the Jets do the same thing and have at least one week of good results. The team needs a change obviously.

Bair: I won't rehash the entire argument for staying the course at quarterback. The condensed version is this: There's a ton Mariota does well pre-snap, plus his athleticism and threat as a rusher bring a lot of positives to the run game. That's part of the give-and-take with him. He makes some spectacular plays. He misses some golden opportunities. And we don't really know how Desmond Ridder is doing.

That's the set up. In my opinion, I don't think we see Ridder unless the Falcons are completely out of playoff contention. Right now, they're just a half-game back in a lackluster NFC South. I think (I don't know) they're going to stay the course with Mariota as the best chance to win. He didn't play terrible at Washington, but he wasn't great. While you can fault him for some throws, 95 percent of quarterbacks go down early in that drive. He finds a way to get up and make a great play to Olamide Zaccheaus.

And, to answer Fisher Fair's question about needing to see Ridder in meaningful games, I don't think that's it. It's about seeing him operate the offense and make plays under pressure. That can come in any contest. Again, if we see Ridder at all, it won't be right now.

Darrell McDowell from Jonesboro, Ga.

What stood out to me AGAIN is that Drake London seems to be a forgot piece … Seems to me that, if you draft a 1st round WR that he would be more involved. What is your opinion about London not being more involved?

Bair: Drake London had two receptions on three targets against Washington, the same target count he had against Chicago the week prior and half the throws of when Kyle Pitts completed a game fully healthy.

One point Arthur Smith made in his Monday press conference: London is the primary target quite often, but that doesn't mean he's going to get the ball. Sometimes coverage focuses on him with added safety help. That should open up opportunities for others. Smith said that's what happened on the 45-yard play by Olamide Zaccheaus.

London had a drop near the line of scrimmage and a spectacular catch downfield secure by the fingertips on Sunday. I'm not super into debating target share, but throws to a talent like that are low. He has gained respect and is certainly being covered by several or schemed against but, if I could pick anyone on the Falcons to target with a 50/50 ball or a low-percentage pass, London's the guy. He's tough, plays big and is super competitive.

London benefits from having other top targets available, but I would like to see him more active. I liked the designed run to him. There are shorter routes designed to get him involved, but he's a deep threat and a catch-and-run target. We haven't seen much of those. Though, if those attempts end in a turnover, folks will be pissed. Gotta pick the right moments in a scheme that's so run-heavy but, to your point, there should be more moments.

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