Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons struggle in loss to the Carolina Panthers

Marcus Mariota and the Atlanta Falcons had a miserable performance during a miserable night at Carolina.

Mariota had a largely forgettable game during the Falcons’ 25-15 loss to the Panthers in a driving rainstorm Thursday night.

Mariota struggled throughout the game as the Falcons’ offense sputtered, particularly in the first half. The Panthers were determined to neutralized the Falcons’ run game and force them to throw. With Atlanta’s suspect offensive line, the Panther’s strategy worked.

Mariota’s play improved in the second half and he finished the game having completed 19 of 30 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Despite the struggles of Mariota and the offense, the Falcons had an opportunity to tie or take a lead late in the fourth quarter. Mariota found KhaDarel Hoge for a 25-yard touchdown pass and the Falcons closed to within 22-15 with 2:56 remaining in the game.

The Falcons forced the Panthers into a three-and-out in 23 seconds during Carolina’s next possession. The Falcons couldn’t get anything going during the possession, one in which Mariota was sacked twice.

Mariota was sacked five times during the game, and his escapability prevented at least four more sacks. Shaky offensive line play resulted in constant pressure that seem to rattle Mariota, especially in the first half when he made some very ill-advised decisions and passes.

Under duress, Mariota was often trying too hard make a play, and he ended up throwing passes off his back foot, on the run or across his body on numerous plays. The result was he was nearly intercepted twice before he finally threw a pick to cornerback Jaycee Horn in the second quarter.

The lowlight occurred when he blindly flung the football in the air after he was sacked. He looked as if he had no idea where he was throwing the football.

In Mariota’s defense, the Falcons’ vaunted running game was slowed by the Panthers and rendered the Falcons’ play-action schemes ineffective. The Falcons who entered the game averaging 162.9 rushing yards a game, posted 138 yards against the Panthers.

The Falcons, trailing 13-0, finally found a little rhythm during their two-minute drive in the first half. Mariota, getting the football out of his hand faster to negate the Panthers’ rush, completed 4 of 4 passes for 27 yards as the Falcons drove for a field goal to close out the half.

The Falcons finally got a touchdown after Mariota found wide receiver Drake London on a 7-yard scoring pass to pull the Falcons to within 13-9 with 6:15 remaining in the third quarter.

Unfortunately for the Falcons, the Panthers responded with a touchdown drive on their ensuing possession to push the lead to 19-9.

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