Falcons’ Arthur Smith: Changes will be made

Falcons coach Arthur Smith said changes will be made after the team’s 19-16 loss to the Steelers on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It was the team’s sixth loss by six points or less this season. It fell to 5-8 with the loss heading into a bye week.

ExploreFalcons’ playoff hopes take hit after losing to Steeler

Smith said he didn’t know what changes will be made because he was still processing the defeat. But he said he and the coaching staff will meet Monday to begin discussing possibilities.

“We’ve got to look at everything,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to the other side of winning. It’ll be good to be able to take a step back. There will be changes.”

One of the possibilities may be benching quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of rookie Desmond Ridder. Mariota was intercepted on the Falcons’ final drive to end their hopes of rallying. It was the second consecutive week that a pass thrown by him decided the game in the opponent’s favor. Last week, his pass near the goal line was tipped by one Washington player and intercepted by another.

Mariota was also processing the loss and said he wasn’t yet thinking about possibly losing his starting job. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. He finished with a quarterback rating of 72.7. His rating for the season is 88.2 with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

ExplorePhotos: Falcons lose another tough one, this time to Steelers

“At the end of the day, they’ve got to make a decision that’s best for the team,” Mariota said. “And whatever happens, happens, but I’m not really thinking about that right now.”

In Mariota’s defense, the team doesn’t have an established No. 1 wide receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson is being used at several positions. Tight end Kyle Pitts is out for the season. The line has had to use different combinations because of injuries.

But it can also be argued that Mariota hasn’t helped himself with errors. The interception in the final seconds of Sunday’s loss wasn’t a great bit of athleticism by Minkah Fitzpatrick. Mariota also took the blame for a false-start penalty on tackle Jake Matthews on second-and-goal at the 18-yard line in the fourth quarter. Earlier this season, he had a fumble and ballhandling mistake late in a loss to the Saints, and a fumble that put a victory against Seattle in jeopardy.

“Penalties put you in bad spots,” Mariota said. “When you’re getting negative plays and putting yourself in third-and-longs, or second-and longs, they can pin their ears back and do what they want and dictate how the game is played.”

Ridder, a rookie drafted in the third round from Cincinnati, has yet to play this season.

The Falcons have four games remaining, starting Dec. 18 at New Orleans. Despite Atlanta’s losing record, it still has a chance to win the NFC South and make the playoffs.

“There’s a lot we need to make sure we get right,” Smith said.

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13

Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16

BYE WEEK

Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD