Nobody knows Mariota’s limitations better than Arthur Smith. The two had history with the Titans. Smith has designed an offense that de-emphasizes the forward pass. It has worked about as well as such an offense can. Still, you can only run around your backhand for so long. We saw this running game buy them a clear deep shot against the Chargers; we saw Mariota overthrow Pitts by five yards.
The Falcons have seven games remaining, six against opponents under .500. They still have a playoff chance, though the odds shrank with last night’s loss. (Through 10 games, the Falcons have been favored only against Carolina.) FiveThirtyEight assigns a 19 percent chance of qualifying for postseason, 14 percent for winning their division. Losing in Charlotte leaves the Falcons low on tiebreakers: They’re 1-3 in division play, having lost to all three South brethren.
Let’s be honest, though. This playoff talk – much of it bandied about in this space – has always been aspirational. The Falcons aren’t that good. Were they in any other division, they might be another loss from deploying Desmond Ridder. Smith was asked Thursday if he considered using the rookie. His response: “I was trying to win the game.”
He also said: “I know that’s a popular narrative.”
Smith has done well to bleed four wins out of this team. Thursday marked the Falcons’ first bad loss. But, having viewed last night’s tilt through the magic of Amazon Prime, I wonder what his parents must think. He attended Georgetown Prep – tuition: $56,665 – and then North Carolina. He’s a smart guy who received a quality education, but darned if those TV cameras don’t make it seem as if his vocabulary runs to one word.
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