Marcus Mariota’s play left a lot to be desired in the Atlanta Falcons’ (4-6) 25-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers (3-7) on “Thursday Night Football.”
The Falcons quarterback made some decisions that left not only fans puzzled, but also multiple members of Amazon Prime‘s broadcast crew. Down 22-9 to the Panthers midway through the fourth quarter, Mariota stumbled after getting some pressure and went down to the ground. He, however, tried to get the ball out while falling and threw a prayer right into the hands of a Panthers defender.
Fortunately for Mariota, the play was ruled a sack and the interception did not count. But that didn’t stop color commentator Kirk Herbstreit from questioning his decision-making.
“I still can’t figure out what Mariota is doing tonight with some of these decisions,” Herbstreit said.
Long before the gaffe from Mariota, Amazon Prime and former NFL cornerback Richard Sherman had already beaten his colleague to the punch. During halftime, in which the Falcons trailed 13-3, Sherman scolded Mariota for his play.
“At this point, you’ve gotta bring somebody else in. He’s making rookie mistakes, and as a veteran, you can’t have it,” Sherman said. “You have a good gameplan… you run the ball… you don’t turn the ball over. This is carelessness.”
Falcons Falter With Division Lead Up for Grabs
A Falcons victory would have given them sole-possession for first place in the NFC South. Instead, it’s the underachieving Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) who find themselves on top after Atlanta’s defeat.
Mariota completed 19-of-30 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He added 43 yards on the ground on three carries. The Panthers entered the contest having ranked 27th in total defense (370.3) and 29th in points per game allowed (25.3). Despite the favorable matchup, the Falcons could only muster up 291 yards and 15 points.
Mariota’s connection — or lack thereof — with second-year tight end Kyle Pitts was perhaps most troubling. The two have failed to get on the same page this season, a trend which continued against Carolina. Pitts received eight targets, hauling in two for 28 yards.