FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Quarterback Marcus Mariota had a solid Falcons debut against the Saints, completing 20 passes for 215 yards on a 60.6 completion percentage, one touchdown, and having the third-highest rushing total behind running backs Cordarrelle Patterson and Alvin Kamara. Despite facing a tough one-point loss in his first game with the franchise, the veteran signal caller is focused on building upon what he assimilated in Week 1. When asked about sliding in games, Mariota reflected back on Sunday against New Orleans.
"I'm a competitor," Mariota said after Wednesday's practice. "I'm going to continue to play like I've always played since I was a kid. I think there's certain situations where I would love to have slid, especially on the turnover but at the end of the day, it's the nature of the beast. You learn, you live, and you grow and that's what I plan on doing."
One of the goals Mariota had set out for himself heading into the season was playing free. That conviction and fearlessness was perceptible on Sunday. After enduring a few obstacles over the past couple of seasons, he now feels like he's at that point in his career.
"It feels good really to be honest," Mariota said. "I think for me, I've always been kind of a feel and instinct player and when I'm able to not think about certain things out on the field, I play better. I appreciate the staff; I appreciate these guys for allowing me to get to that point and I think that's what's going to allow me to play my best football."
The Falcons will head west for Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams, a team they haven't played since 2019, and then to Seattle to clash with the Seahawks in Week 3. Mariota hasn't played in the Northwest since his University of Oregon days. The vet is excited about the challenge in facing a Rams defense that consist of Aaron Donald, Bobby Wagner, and Jalen Ramsey; three guys with first-team All-Pro honors to their credit.
"You look at their defense, right? They've got three levels of All-Pro players," Mariota said. "You got a guy in the front seven, you got another guy in the intermediate, and you got a guy in the back end, so I think that's a great challenge, especially for this team. We were young and we were kind of still learning the ropes of the league, because that's what it is. Week in and week out, you're going to play some of the best players in the world and you just got to look at it as a great opportunity."
As one of the youngest players on the team and go-to target for Mariota, Drake London looks to build upon his first game where he led all Falcons receivers in both receptions (5) and yards (74) against the Saints. This will be the first time the California native will be playing back on the West Coast and the first time against his hometown team.
"It's a first for everybody, for me at least in that sense with all the defenses so I'm just excited to see what they're about," London said of the Rams defense. "Just the way they play, the level of swagger they play with. I just want to go out there have fun and compete."
Take a look as the team puts in the work at Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the LA Rams.
Notes, observations from practice:
- Damien Williams did not participate in Wednesday's practice. The veteran running back left Sunday's game against the Saints with a rib injury. However, he did return to the field late in the game. Afterwards, he said he expected to be fine and was just feeling a little sore on Monday. His status will be something to monitor as the week goes on.
- One of the best exchanges of Arthur Smith's pre-practice availability came when a reporter asked him, simply: "What challenges does the Rams defense with Aaron Donald present you guys on Sunday?" Smith responded: "You just kinda said it." The head coach said Donald is "one of the most dominant players of the last decade in this league." He alone is a challenge.
- Talking to media after practice, Drake London said he feels good, "real, real good," after making his league debut on Sunday. London missed the last two weeks of the preseason with a knee injury and was working back to full health last week ahead of the home opener against the Saints. After racking up 74 yards in his debut, London said on Wednesday that it's fair to say he's back to 100 percent.
- Like Donald, Smith had a few things to say about the Rams offensive weapon in Cooper Kupp. According to Smith, what makes Kupp so potent in that offense is that he knows how to fill voids on the field. Some guys, Smith said, just have that feel. Kupp does: "You call it choice routes where he's got three options on a route, you drop back and he's going to go where you're not. When playing man, he knows how to get open. He's very crafty."