Falcons’ Marcus Mariota remains upbeat after loss to Commanders

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota credited teammates for giving him a chance to win Sunday’s game against Washington, and the Commanders for making a play that resulted in the 19-13 defeat.

“That’s the NFL,” he said.

Trailing by six and facing a second-and-goal at the 4-yard line, Mariota’s pass was tipped by Commanders defensive lineman Daron Payne and intercepted by Kendall Fuller in the end zone to end the Falcons’ attempt to rally.

“Our guys did an unbelievable job, really,” Mariota said. “Because I felt like I had space. And it’s a credit to Daron for making a play like that. I think our guys did a great job of blocking him. D-line coaches talk about all the time if you’re getting blocked, OK, now find ways to knock the ball down. And he did a great job with that, in that instance.”

Mariota will get another chance when the Falcons host the Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“We love Marcus, and he was a huge reason why we were even in the game,” guard Chris Lindstrom said. “That play is not on him at all. It just happened. He’s a great player. He made a great play. The ball tipped up in the air, and that’s sometimes how it goes. You just have to credit them, the defense, for making a play in a huge situation.”

The Falcons released news Wednesday that tight end Kyle Pitts, one of Mariota’s favorite targets, will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing a procedure to repair an MCL strain Tuesday.

The job will continue to be filled by Parker Hesse, MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser.

Mariota said it’s “very important” that he and Pruitt played together in Tennessee in 2018 and ‘19 as the Falcons continue to try to pass Tampa Bay for first place in the NFC South. Pruitt has six receptions for 40 yards and two touchdowns this season.

“The chemistry that we’ve built over time in Tennessee has really helped us kind of kick it off pretty seamlessly to start right away, and he does a great job,” Mariota said. “He does a lot of dirty work (as a blocker) and then does a great job in the passing game as well. Creating explosive plays. Credit goes to him.”

Pruitt was signed to the practice squad Aug. 31 and promoted to the active roster Oct. 18.

“It’s tough, right?” Mariota said. “Like, you go through 10 weeks, 11 weeks, and you’re not really filling that role. And then all of a sudden, things happen. And now you’re kind of thrust into that role, but he’s done a great job, and we’re very thankful.”

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