Atlanta Falcons second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder will be the starter. I just wanted to get that off my chest before I start this column. Falcons fans are going to have to accept that fact and prepare for some good and bad times, particularly early in the season. It’s also time for the Falcons coaching staff to face facts: It’s time to let Ridder fly.
Sunday’s 24-10 victory over Carolina was just the fourth start of Ridder’s career. The game was Ridder’s first as the team’s sure-fire, definite starting quarterback. He played well and the team won. Now let’s get down to what I really want to say. Ridder had 31 passing yards during the first half. That was despite the fact that he was 9-12 and even had a touchdown pass. Ridder finished the game with 115 passing yards and a touchdown pass.
A lot of what took place on Sunday has to do with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone’s apparent lack of trust in Ridder. I understand playing it safe, but Matt Ryan isn’t walking through that locker room door. It’s time to let Ridder fly.
The Falcons defense, more specifically Jessie Bates with a pair of interceptions of rookie Carolina quarterback Bryce Young, put Ridder and the Falcons offense in perfect position to take a lead (Atlanta did go ahead 7-0 at the beginning of the second quarter on a Ridder to Bijan Robinson connection) and keep a lead. That’s not going to be the case every week. The fact that Atlanta hosted a rookie quarterback is a big factor. That most certainly won’t happen every week going forward. Atlanta will once again have the good fortune of hosting a new starting quarterback when Green Bay and Jordan Love, winners at home against the Chicago Bears today, come to town next Sunday.
This week however, the Falcons offensive play calls leaned on second-year running back Tyler Allgeier (15 rushes for 75 yards and two scores), who split carries with Robinson (10 for 56 yards, 6 receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown) throughout the game.
During the third quarter with the game tied at 10 there were a couple pair play calls for Ridder to pass to tight end Kyle Pitts (2 receptions for 44 yards) and Allgeier and the ball started moving much better. A dangerous Ridder equals a dangerous Falcons offense. It’s time to let Ridder fly. Those two Ridder completions put Atlanta in position to have Allgeier score on a run that put the Falcons ahead 17-10 to start the fourth quarter.
In order for this team to return to the playoffs (it’s been a while, ya’ll) Ridder is going to have to play a significant role. His longest completions of the game were to Allgeier and Robinson out of the backfield. Receiver Mack Hollins made a couple of plays during the game and could be a weapon for the Falcons if given a few more opportunities. Pitts had two receptions for the entire game, the second coming on a Ridder dime for 35 yards down to the Carolina seven yard line. Allgeier scored his second touchdown of the game on the next play.
Smith and Ragone have to let Ridder fly this season before the Falcons offense gets predictable.
This column will be updated following postgame press conference.