The first clip is the quintessential Arthur Smith play — play action boot to get Mariota in space where he has the ability to tuck it and run if the crosser, Drake London, doesn’t come open. Mariota connects with the Falcons’ No. 8 overall pick for a gain of 24 yards in what should become a staple of the Falcons’ offense. It was a designed rollout, but the second clip is another facet of the offense the Falcons didn’t have with Matt Ryan. As the play breaks down, Desmond Ridder buys time and finds Jared Bernardt for the go-ahead touchdown, showcasing the traits that prompted the Falcons to draft him.
Mariota looked fast in his return as a starter in this league, and if there’s one thing Falcons fans can take away from the exhibition game, it is that the former No. 2 overall pick wants to win. He put his body on the line multiple times, including on his six-yard touchdown run. Obviously, the coaching staff would prefer Mariota not take as many hits as he did, but it’s fantastic to see this wrinkle in Atlanta for the first time since Michael Vick. No disrespect to Matt Ryan, but Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder are just in another league of athleticism.