The Falcons are fresh off a tough loss to the L.A. Chargers but must move on quickly to a Thursday night affair that Richie Grant called a "must-win."
It's super important, that's for sure, within the context of a tight NFC South race. It would be a huge win within the division and set the Falcons up for a push heading down the stretch.
So let's get right to this Monday Bair Mail, where we try to alleviate some misconceptions about Marcus Mariota, while keeping a critical eye on his performance, put Ta'Quon Graham's impact in proper perspective and discuss what Rashad Fenton can give to the secondary, plus some thoughts on the Falcons making more roster additions.
Buc Maull from Atlanta, Ga.
Bair…I understand your stance on Mariota as the Starter and the Teams push for a playoff birth, but at What point does Mariota become accountable for his inaccurate throws…over or under throwing, taking Shots down the Field? ( I was at the game and there were a few Big shots to Pitts that were over thrown) Also…How do we know that Ridder DOESN'T give us a Better chance to win if we haven't seen him given the opportunity to, in an NFL regular season game?
Bair: Let's address a few things about Marcus Mariota that Buc and others have brought up. First off, the passing game has to be better. It doesn't have to be great, but it has to give a bit more than it has and come up in big moments. There were plays yesterday the Falcons had to have and just weren't able to execute. That played a major role in a winnable game ending up as a loss.
In terms of accountability, Mariota is accountable and always looks inward first. He was asked five questions in his Sunday press conference, which you can watch below. He took blame for mistakes answering the four critical asks. He said he had to give Kyle Pitts a better ball on that late deep shot.
He said, "it's on me," referring to the second-quarter lull, the need to be better on third downs and overall inconsistencies.
In terms of Ridder, it's the great unknown, which is what makes him so intriguing to some. What if you're wrong, and the Falcons are worse with Ridder right now, it costs them some more winnable games and the team falls out of the playoff race. Is that a risk you're willing to take. I'm not.
Also, don't forget that there are some plays Mariota can make for you that few others can. As Arthur Smith said on Monday, there's a "give and take." You can't focus only on one side of things without the other. That's unfair to the player and the objectivity of the evaluation.
Sloane Willing from Melbourne, Australia
G'day Scott. Do me a favour and give TQ a great big Bair hug for me please. It was a game that we should have won, but the loss doesn't fall on his shoulders.
Bair: Love the way you spelled, Bair hug, Sloane. Ha. The Falcons really rallied around their young defensive lineman, as they should've. I'm sure nobody feels worse that Ta'Quon Graham after he lost control of the ball. He both took accountability for the mistake (that’s important), put it in proper perspective (that's important) and seemed ready to quickly put it behind him (that's important).
There are several other plays that could've helped win this game, the Younghoe Koo miss from distance, the second-down, fourth quarter deep shot to Kyle Pitts that fell incomplete, to name a few. This loss doesn't fall on any one individual. While Graham made a costly mistake, it should also be made clear that he's a quality, impactful player along the defensive front and has a bright future ahead. This is a good dude and who will be a good Falcons player for a long time. This mistake won't define him.
Matt C from Lawrenceville, Ga.
ANOTHER tough loss today, arguably because of a few silly miscues. Happy we picked up some secondary help at the trade deadline and hoping to see Fenton in rotation contributing quickly. My question is, do you think we will, or even should, use what little money we have left to pick up some help on defense so we can close out some ball games and make a playoff push?
Bair: Rashad Fenton didn't play any defensive snaps in his Falcons debut, with the turnaround and position he plays too difficult to thrust him right into the fray. He is a good player with starting experience and could play more of a role down the road, certainly after the Panthers game. I'm interested to see how he'll fare in this coverage scheme.
In terms of adding more defensive bodies, I don't think there's a splash signing out there with a higher-profile street free agent the Falcons could make that would impact the starting lineup. They'll continue to churn the roster, as they always do, with guys signed to the practice squad and then move up the ranks to a more active role on game days. Finding diamonds in the rough has happened before. The Falcons are good at it and will continue to push to find those guys who can help or at least strengthen their depth chart.
Call for questions
We'll get one more Bair Mail in before Thursday night's game at Carolina. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in a Wednesday mailbag.
We take a monochrome look at the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on November 6, 2022.