Cincinnati has struggled lately in the run defense and hasn’t been consistent in its rushing offense. On the flip side, Atlanta’s pass defense and passing offense rank among the bottom three in the league.
“Marcus Mariota is a very talented quarterback,” Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson said. “He’s kind of been under the radar for the last couple years, but special talent. It’s gonna take some discipline to contain. I think they only had like 14 pass attempts (Sunday), so knowing that the run is coming is going to be something that we’re going to execute in practice all week.”
Mariota completed all but one of those 14 passes against the 49ers and two of them were for touchdowns. He finished with 129 yards passing and added 50 yards rushing and a touchdown on six carries. In his first season with the Falcons, following two years as a backup with the Raiders, Mariota has thrown for 1,055 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions and adds 206 yards and three touchdowns on 43 carries.
The Falcons are without their leading rusher, though, with Cordarrelle Patterson on injured reserve with a knee injury after running for 340 yards and three scores in the first four games. Tyler Allegeier has started the last two games in his absence and accounts for 235 yards on 54 carries. Caleb Huntley adds 152 yards on 35 carries.
In the passing game, Drake London leads the receivers with 306 yards and two touchdowns on 25 catches, and Olamide Zaccheaus adds 271 yards and two scores on 16 catches.
Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, a coveted player in the draft as a first-round pick out of Florida, accounts for 169 yards and one touchdown on 13 receptions.
“He is something,” Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “Plays like a wideout. He is out there at No. 1. They move him all over. They got him playing really like a wide receiver, which he is, right? Big, strong, fast, all that stuff. We will get down to the nitty gritty of it but we are just in the middle of getting started with it.”
Atlanta’s defense is led by linebacker Rashaan Evans, who has 52 tackles, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and three passes defended. Fellow linebacker Mykal Walker has a sack and an interception to go with 44 tackles and two passes defended. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett leads the pass rush with 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits and five tackles for loss.
While the Falcons have been strong against the run, they allow 281 yards passing per game (second worst in the league).
“We’re motivated,” Hendrickson said. “It’s a what’s next league? So we’re gonna flush this (Saints result) after (Monday) … and get on to the Atlanta Falcons.”
Falcons at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7