Marcus Mariota and the Atlanta Falcons were expected to struggle this season. Some observers predicted the Falcons would win just two games in 2022.
The Falcons are 5-6 and sitting a half-game behind first-place Tampa in the NFC South. The Falcons will take on the Washington Commanders in a critical game on Sunday.
“It’s a big game for both teams,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith told reporters. “We’re excited to be playing in a game that matters.”
The Falcons were expected to be evaluating draft choices at this point of the season, not competing for a playoff berth entering Week 12 of the regular season.
“When you’re playing meaningful games this time of the year, you’re doing some things right,” Mariota told reporters Wednesday. “What’s cool about us is we can continue to improve. With this young group of guys that we have, there’s no complacency. Everyone is trying to get better.”
Mariota certainly got better during the Falcons’ 27-24 win against the Chicago Bears in Week 11. The win ended a two-game stretch of mediocre to bad performances by Mariota while snapping the Falcons’ two-game losing streak.
Mariota, who said he needed to be “efficient,” completed 13 of 20 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against the Bears. He also ran for a touchdown in the game to augment what was a clean outing. The quarterback also led the Falcons on a drive that resulted in Younghoe Koo’s 53-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 27-24 lead with 1:47 remaining in the game.
If the Falcons are going to make a serious playoff push, they need to string together wins. They have yet to win two consecutive games this season.
“If you can continue to grow and continue to stack days upon each other, as you get later into the year, you’ll kind of like where you’re at,” Mariota told reporters Wednesday. “If we can string these together, I think when the season’s done we’ll be excited about it.”