Jacob Tuioti-Mariner ‘was everywhere’ in win over Raiders

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner exploded out of his three-point stance and took three quick steps before engaging with Las Vegas Raiders right tackle Brandon Parker. The quick get-off allowed Tuioti-Mariner to get his hands on Parker first, which briefly knocked him out of his stance. From there, the third-year Falcons defensive lineman bent around the offensive lineman and charged toward quarterback Derek Carr.

He’s come close a few times this season. This time, it seemed like he would finally hit home.

With a little over one minute to go in the second quarter of the Falcons’ 43-6 victory over the Raiders, Tuioti-Mariner struck Carr from behind, which forced the ball out his hand before he could attempt to throw it downfield. Almost in one fluid motion, Tuioti-Mariner finished the sack on Carr, quickly rose to his feet and ran toward the loose ball. Beating everyone else, he jumped on the ball and secured it, which completed a forced fumble and recovery to go with his first career sack.

Tuioti-Mariner also recovered an earlier fumble after linebacker Foye Oluokun sacked Carr and punched the ball out during the first quarter. It was easily the best game of Tuioti-Mariner’s career.

“You can’t thank anybody else but my teammates,” Tuioti-Mariner said. “They made that happen. The coaches had a great game-plan coming into the game. All thanks to them. They created an opportunity for me to go out there to help the team. I know it’s a team effort for everybody.”

Tuioti-Mariner joined the Falcons after every team in the 2018 NFL draft passed on him. However, the UCLA product was a priority add for the Falcons once the seven rounds were complete. The front office and coaching staff were big on his developmental potential at the time, especially since he played for Falcons defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich when he was in the same position at UCLA.

Tuioti-Mariner spent his entire first season on the Falcons’ practice squad. He began the 2019 season on the practice squad before being elevated to the 53-man roster for the final eight games. This year, Tuioti-Mariner made the 53-man roster from the start and has been a mainstay as a rotational defensive lineman.

Entering Sunday’s game with 20 tackles for the year, Tuioti-Mariner combined for five against the Raiders, which included his first-ever sack. Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris was pleased to see this kind of performance out of the developing defensive lineman.

Falcons defensive tackle Jacob Tuioti-Mariner strip sacks Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and recovers the fumble during the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

“Jacob was all over the place,” Morris said. “He (recovered) a couple of fumbles, it felt like he was everywhere. He plays special teams, he makes tackles for us. I can’t say enough good things of what Jacob was able to do for us, just because where he’s come from as a man. He was certainly fired up and played well for his team.”

Asked about Tuioti-Mariner’s performance against the Raiders during a postgame interview, linebacker Deion Jones’ eyes widened as the ends of a smile poked through the sides of the mask he was wearing.

“It’s a product of his hard work,” Jones said. “Even when he was on the practice squad, he had the same grind, the same energy. I’m glad he’s on the field with us now.”

Tuioti-Mariner played a big role in what was a standout performance from the entire Falcons defense. The Falcons combined for five sacks and five turnovers for the first time in a game since Week 12 of 2002. The Falcons also were able to completely stop the Raiders from running the ball, with running back Josh Jacobs carrying the ball seven times for 27 yards.

As a team, the Raiders were only able to total 40 rushing yards.

“I think it’s a great collective team win,” Tuioti-Mariner said. “It all started on Monday when we came in and made our corrections. We learned from our mistakes (last week).”

Tuioti-Mariner was a three-star prospect when he got to UCLA and became a key contributor by his sophomore season. A developmental prospect during his first two years as a pro, Tuioti-Mariner has proved he can play as a rotational player through the course of this season.

With a game like he had against the Raiders, perhaps he is showing he can do even more for this Falcons defense.

“I love my journey. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Tuioti-Mariner said. “The journey that I’ve had taught me how to work hard, be disciplined and keep my head down to keep working. I don’t compare myself to others, I just keep working. I know there’s two things I can control in a game and that’s my effort and my physicality. I make sure I bring that consistently.”

112920 ATLANTA: Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (left) celebrates his strip sack and fumble recovery of Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr with Isaiah Oliver during the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@