Mariota or Ridder? Slumping Falcons ponder change at QB

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) works in the pocket against the Pittsburgh...
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) works in the pocket against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)(John Bazemore | AP)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 1:10 PM EST
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ATLANTA (AP) — Mired in a monthlong slump but somehow still in playoff contention, the Atlanta Falcons are definitely planning changes during their bye week.

Some will be subtle. Perhaps a tweak of a scheme. But one could be a really big deal: A switch at quarterback.

Marcus Mariota has taken every snap for the Falcons this season, showing flashes of reviving his floundering career.

But it’s clear that coach Arthur Smith is looking for more from his offense heading into the final quarter of the season.

Media reports say Smith is planning to bench Mariota in favor of rookie Desmond Ridder.

While the playoffs weren’t really on the Falcons’ radar at the beginning of what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, the weakness of the NFC South — where the four teams have a cumulative record of 19-31 — has opened an unexpected door.

The Falcons, whose next game is at division rival New Orleans on Dec. 18, are running out of opportunities to walk through it.

“Unless you literally don’t have a phone ... yeah, you’re aware of it,” Smith said of the playoff possibilities. “We need to get a win. So, whatever we have to do, we have to find a way to try to beat New Orleans down there.”

Even it meant a change at quarterback.