A bad team and a weird team met on Thursday Night Football, and the results were as expected: bad and weird. The Falcons fell to the Panthers in primetime, in a game that was as much a comedy of errors as it was football.
Continue reading for this week’s edition of Hat tips & head-scratchers.
Drake London snares the touchdown
There wasn’t much, if anything, to like about the Falcons’ performance against the Panthers. Wide receiver Drake London’s third-quarter touchdown was one of the lone bright spots, with the big-bodied rookie showing off his shifty side with his route against Carolina corner Donte Jackson.
His quick change of direction at the top of the route created just enough space for quarterback Marcus Mariota to find him in the end zone, and showed why the Falcons valued him in the draft. He’s not just physically gifted — although he is that — he’s got footwork, as well.
Of the things you could find in this section amid the comedy of errors that was Falcons-Panthers, issues kicking the football would be unexpected — but they’re here because that’s how bad that football game was.
Punter Bradley Pinion started what would be a miserable day kicking the football on special teams, shanking a punt that traveled only 31 yards in the second quarter. Panthers wide receiver Leviska Shenault would scamper 41 yards to score on the following play, one where safety Jaylinn Hawkins and linebacker Rashaan Evans comically crashed into one another trying to chase him down.
Unfortunately, the goofs were not limited to punting, as ultra-reliable Younghoe Koo also missed two extra points in the affair after making 71 straight prior. Just a terrible evening all around.
For the second time in three weeks, the Falcons’ defense was plunged into successive levels of Hell courtesy of Carolina running back D’Onta Foreman. Foreman absolutely annihilated Atlanta’s defense, taking 31 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown.
For a unit that looked promising throughout much of the season, the Falcons’ run defense has been embarrassing lately.
In a performance that ranks as one of the worst of Marcus Mariota’s career, no play encapsulated his ineptitude against the Panthers more than that play. You know the one — where Mariota, haplessly flailing to avoid a sack, made some mental calculations and decided he should just throw the ball somewhere, to be intercepted.
It of course made conversational fodder all week for how much of a boneheaded mistake it was, but it also magnified one of Mariota’s largest deficiencies: trying to do far too much despite the circumstances.
That was not an attempt a savvy veteran makes. It’s not one even a rookie likely makes — which is why we should soon see Desmond Ridder under center. While Arthur Smith addressed the quarterback situation Monday, it stands to reason Ridder will start at some point this season. Mariota’s poor decision-making will only hasten that change.