The Falcons have won two straight games now, with optimism high the team is headed in the right direction.
And, as crazy as it seems, the victor of Sunday's game at Tampa Bay will be in sole possession of first place. I know it's early and odds of an Atlanta win aren't great, but it's a better position to be in than the struggling Panthers and Saints.
The Falcons still haven't put a complete game together despite doing several things well, meaning there's plenty left to improve moving forward. That was the focus of most postgame Bair Mail submissions, with tons of inquiries focused on Marcus Mariota – we'll only answer one, trying to apply it to all of you – the team's young runners and Kyle Pitts targets in the red zone.
Let's get right to it and answer your questions in this Monday mailbag:
Camereon Williams from Lithonia, Ga.
Hey Bair. Two in a row for the Dirty Birds. It's been a while since that happen. Happy for the team and us fans. However, I am still nervous about Mariota. He just seems to really get careless with the ball in pressure situations. He seems to miss some throws I think he should make. If Falcons continue to win, at some point we will need the QB to lead us to victory. Do you think Mariota is capable of that? Do you think Mariota can protect the ball in tight game situations and lead this team to victories down the stretch with his arm? I think the team has found a running game that is for real. Other teams will take notice of that and dare Mariota to beat them with his arm at some point. Will Mariota be ready when that moment comes? I sure hope so. Good win today. Go Falcons!!
Bair: As mentioned above, this answer is designed to answer all of the Marcus Mariota questions submitted to the mailbag since that Browns game ended. Not every inquiry is the same, but I'll try to address as many points as possible. So, just because your name isn't featured above this question doesn't mean I haven't read your inquiry and pondered it.
Now on to the Mariota topic. He didn't have a great game on Sunday. His completion percentage was low and the passing game wasn't impactful save a few key moments.
Mariota was 7-for-19 passing for 139 yards and an interception, for a 41.3 passer rating. He had five carries for three total yards and fumbled for the sixth time this season. That wasn't a great day, even if there were some positives passing on third down, hitting Olamide Zaccheaus deep and getting the Falcons into good rushing situations.
Those overall numbers offer stark contrast to the game's first drive, when Mariota was 4-for-7 for 68 yards, including two conversions on third-and-long. They're also stark relief to a solid performance in Seattle, where Mariota was effective throwing both deep and into tight windows.
There's decreasing confidence in Mariota among the fan base, with many in the mailbag asking about Desmond Ridder's readiness. I've said this before and I'll say it again: we aren't there yet. I don't know if Ridder's ready. I know Mariota doesn't yet deserve the hook. He's a good player getting back into the swing of things as a starter. While I have long supported him and continue to, I'm not blind to the fact that he's making too many critical mistakes. He's putting the ball on the ground too much, turning the ball over too often in ways that hurt offensive momentum.
That stuff has to get cleaned up. If it does, I think opinions of what Mariota's able to do will change. He's an athletic presence who can launch the ball downfield effectively. When paired with a good run game, Mariota can be really good. We've seen that in small spurts. We need to see it with fewer hiccups mixed in. If the mistakes continue, especially during fourth-quarter moments when good play could when a game, then we might have to rethink things in the face of mounting evidence.
Sean N from Atlanta, Ga.
1. Why isn't Pitts used in the red zone?
2. Will we see more Huntley and Allegier in the future?
3. What can the Falcons do to fortify the defensive line?
4. Will Ridder and Mariota be rotated at times?
NOTE: Thanks a ton to Sean N for all four questions. They helped a great deal, with most of the focus from others solely on Mariota. We'll get to the top three – we've already answered No. 4 – one by one
Why wasn't Pitts used in the red zone?
Bair: That has been an issue and a question mark since last year, when Pitts scored just one touchdown. He has said he wants to increase his scoring totals significantly and will do so. I honestly believe that. Per TruMedia, Pitts has only been targeted once in the red zone. That number isn't high enough, though. He had 14 last year, for four receptions, 24 yards and his only NFL touchdown.
As Arthur Smith says, though, you can't force it. The ball will find Pitts, but I agree it needs to find him (or be schemed towards him) more often.
Will we see more Huntley and Allgeier in the future?
Bair: As another note, this question was asked before news broke that Cordarrelle Patterson would be placed on injured reserve. The answer was yes before Monday's news and it's an absolute certainty now, as the Falcons move forward with Caleb Huntley and Tyler Allgeier as primary running backs. They may essentially split carries against Tampa. If not, both will be heavily involved. Allgeier and Huntley are tough, physical runners who can push the pile and slash into open space. We'll see how they do as featured players moving forward.
What can the Falcons do to fortify the defensive line?
Bair: Nothing dramatic, at this point, that'd I'd expect. Falcons pro scouts are monitoring the options available, though they're in need of depth over starting talent. Grady Jarrett, TaQuon Graham and Anthony Rush have performed well to this point. Preseason injuries sapped their depth, and that's a tough blow they're handling as best they can. I wouldn't expect a name you know to walk through the door, though the Falcons are always churning the bottom of the roster looking for diamonds in the rough.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Wednesday's mailbag.
We take a monochrome look at the win over the Cleveland Browns on October 2, 2022.