Mariota, Ridder solid for Falcons in 24-16 loss to Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (AP) — Marcus Mariota is feeling – and playing – like a starter again.

After leading Atlanta to scores on two of his three drives in the Falcons’ 24-16 loss to the backup-heavy New York Jets on Monday night, Mariota appears to have solidified his position at quarterback.

“The last two years have been a good reset for me, but I’m excited for the opportunity, excited for this team,” said Mariota, who has been a backup the past two years in Las Vegas and has not made a regular season start. game from 2019 with Tennessee.

Mariota was 6 of 10 for 132 yards and touch pass to Olamide Zaccheaus before giving way to rookie Desmond Ridder with a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.

“I’m happy with Marcus,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “He seemed to get into a good rhythm.”

Reeder, a third-round pick out of Cincinnati, wasn’t too shabby, going 10-of-13 for 143 yards and leading the Falcons to two field goals during his three penalty-marred drives.

“He’s young, he’s fired up and he’s showing flashes here today,” said Kyle Pitts, one of the few starters to play for the Falcons.

Pete made his presence felt quickly with a 52-yard reception on Atlanta’s second play from a fight. He broke open Bryce Hall, who is competing with rookie Sauce Gardner for the top cornerback spot, to put the Falcons at the Jets 9.

“Well, you know, it’s easy when you have a guy like Kyle,” Mariota said. “But yeah, we felt good about the player, we felt good about the look and hats off to Kyle for executing it.”

The drive stalled, however, and the Falcons had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo. But Mariota drove Atlanta into the end zone on the next possession. He hit a wide open Anthony Firkser for a 39-yard gain to get to the Jets 14, then found Zaccheaus for a 13-yard TD two plays later.

The Jets sat most of their projected starters, including quarterback Joe Flacco – who took over as New York’s QB1 in place of the injured Zach Wilson. Coach Robert Saleh said after the game that the Jets will treat this week as a “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, and the starters are expected to play Sunday against the Giants.

Wilson is out for a few weeks as he recovers from bone bruises and a surgically repaired torn meniscus in his right knee, with his availability for the Sept. 11 season opener against Baltimore uncertain. It would be Flacco under center if Wilson couldn’t go, but Mike White got the start against the Falcons and was mostly ineffective against the backups.

White was 12 of 17 for 90 yards and the offense scored on each of its first four drives before Greg Zuerlein’s 44-yard field goal ended the first half with the Jets trailing 16-3.

“It was one of those preseason games where you couldn’t get into a rhythm,” White said.

BACK CHRIS

Fourth-string Chris Streveler, who hadn’t thrown a pass in team drills before leading the Jets to two touchdowns in the preseason opener in Philadelphia, was back in the game against Atlanta.

The former CFL quarterback, who had previous NFL stints with Arizona, Baltimore and Miami, replaced White in the third quarter and engineered TD drives on his first two series.

First he came a 34-yard TD pass to Lawrence Kager, then an eight-game hitting streak capped La’Mical Perine 7-yard run that gave the Jets a 17-16 lead 11 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Streveler finished 8 of 11 for 119 yards and the TD and was intercepted by Teez Tabor. He also led the Jets with 33 yards rushing on six carries.

SCOOP AND SCORE

Jets linebacker Bradlee Anae, competing for a roster spot on a deep unit, made his case stick. He sacked Franks, causing him to fumble, then scooped up the ball and ran 30 yards into the end zone for a touchdown in the rain that gave New York a 24-16 lead.

SLOPPY

Ridder led the Falcons to the Jets 1 on their first drive, but a botched kickoff penalty on tight end Jalen Mayfield on fourth down caused Atlanta to punt instead on a 23-yard field goal by Koo.

The next drive saw five more penalties — four on the Falcons, with one being declined — and Atlanta settled for a 30-yard field goal.

“We have to be more disciplined,” Smith said. “We’ve got to run cleaner. We’ve got to finish those runs in the red zone.”

Atlanta finished with 13 penalties for 121 yards. New York wasn’t much better: The Jets were penalized 11 times for 104 yards.

“It was sloppy on both sides,” Saleh said.

INJURIES

Jets WR Tarik Black was being evaluated for a concussion. … Jets WR Irvin Charles left with a rib injury in the fourth quarter.

NEXT

Falcons: Wrap up their preseason schedule by hosting Jacksonville on Saturday.

Jets: Host the Giants on Sunday in the annual preseason matchup.

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