Is the Falcons’ brand of offense sustainable?

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota hands the ball to running back Caleb Huntley during the third quarter against the 49ers on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota hands the ball to running back Caleb Huntley during the third quarter against the 49ers on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Miguel Martinez /

FLOWERY BRANCH — With the Falcons moving on from quarterback Matt Ryan and with new and unproven weapons added, no one knew what to expect from the offense early this season.

Now, with six games of videotape, future Falcons opponents have enough to study and make countermoves. The run-heavy offense will not catch any teams off-guard moving forward.

It will be a contrast in styles on display when the Falcons (3-3) face the pass-happy Bengals (3-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Paycor Stadium, just off the banks of the Ohio River.

The Falcons rank third in rushing (165.2 yards per game) and 30th in passing (156.2 yards per game.) The Bengals, who feature quarterback Joe Burrow, pass for 248.7 yards per game (eighth) and average 89 yards rushing (27th.)

“It’s not going to shock me if they win,” former NFL coach Charlie Weis said of the Falcons on the “Airing it Out” show on SiriusXM NFL radio Wednesday. “I like the way that they play. They know who they are.”

In addition to a new quarterback, the Falcons have an almost completely different receiving corps.

“Play to who you are,” Weis said. “Don’t try to be too fancy. The quarterback threw one incompletion last week. One! That’s almost impossible.”

Quarterback Marcus Mariota believes the offense’s style of play is sustainable.

“This team has got a lot of potential,” Mariota said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith likely won’t have Mariota dropping back to pass 58 or 57 times, as Ryan did for the Colts and Justin Herbert did for the Chargers in games during the past week.

The Falcons used some efficient 13-of-14 passing Sunday to beat the 49ers to go with a pounding rushing attack, which amassed 168 yards.

“He played the game plan,” Smith said of Mariota. “The game plan against that defense – I don’t care what his ratings are. If you don’t turn the ball over and you make the plays that are there, and he did that.”

Mariota finished with a passer rating of 144.6, the fifth highest of his career.

In his first game in the NFL, Mariota finished with a 158.3 passer rating in a 42-14 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 13, 2015, when he completed 13 of 15 passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns.

He had a 149.8 rating in a 47-25 win over Green Bay on Nov. 13, 2016 (19-of-26 passing, 295 yards, four touchdown passes).

Mariota’s third-highest rating was 148.1 in a 36-22 win over Jacksonville on Oct. 27, 2016 (18-of-22 passing, 270 yards, two TDs).

Mariota’s fourth-highest rating was 147.8 in a 34-31 loss to Houston on Nov. 26, 2018 (22-of-23 passing, 303 yards, two TDs).

The common thread that runs through those five games was that he didn’t throw any interceptions.

Mariota is hoping to have more efficient performances to help balance the offense.

“So as the season continues to progress, I think we’re all getting a good feel of what is expected of us and how we can be efficient,” Mariota said. “So, I think all in all, I’ve really gotten to a point where I feel really comfortable in this scheme.”

Smith is not a proponent of a set completion percentage number or a quarterback’s passer rating.

“Again, it just depends on the scheme and what you are trying to attack,” Smith said. “If there is a game that we feel you could be a little riskier, if there is something there that you are trying to take advantage of, take what they give you.”

Some defenses will play deep and force the Falcons to slowly work their way down the field. The 49ers didn’t give the Falcons a lot of opportunities for deep passes.

“Part of it is because of the way that they rush the quarterback,” Smith said. “If you are holding the ball for a really long time (that could lead to sacks).”

The pass blocking must be good enough for Mariota to take some shots down the field.

“Every game is going to be a different story,” Smith said.

The Falcons are fine with Mariota and the passing attack.

“Very happy,” Smith said. “What I think you are seeing is his progress, stats be damned, to use your term. Maybe I used it, maybe I didn’t. In all seriousness, like the flow of the game, if he was in a rhythm, certainly, that would help, yes.”

Mariota operated near flawlessly to get the 129 yards passing against the 49ers and was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

“Well, I think it started off his first third down, the big play to O.Z. (Olamide Zaccheaus) for 37 yards,” Smith said. “Sometimes, I think it is, it’s a little bit like when that first shot goes in the basket. When you see that first putt go in. ... That is real.”

Mariota believes that he’s starting to get more and more comfortable in the offense.

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve kind of gotten to that point through the first five games,” Mariota said. “I think every game that I’ve played in this year I’ve gotten more and more comfortable.”

It has been a struggle at times, with ballhandling and fumbling issues over the first five games.

“It’s tough, coming off a couple of years where you’re not getting a lot of game time, and truly the only experience that you get is (from) being out there,” Mariota said.

Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London believes the new offense is sustainable.

“Whatever it takes to win,” London said. “Whatever mode that we have to do to win a football game, we’re going to do it. If that means we throw it 20 times this week, great. If it means we throw it 40 times this week, great.”

London believes the Falcons will adjust to whatever defenses throw at the offense after studying the video from the first six games.

“We’re going to find whatever niche we think can help us win the football (game), that’s what we are going to try to do,” London said. “Whatever that may be. Our guys will accept it. Our guys believe in the system. They believe in what we are trying to do.”

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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 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.


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