Falcons’ Desmond Ridder embraces calm in comeback win

Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder sealed his team’s first touchdown with a three-yard pass to wide receiver Drake London, bringing Atlanta fans to their feet as the receiver celebrated in the end zone.

The score narrowed the Falcons’ deficit to 10-9 just before halftime. For Ridder, the timing during what he called the “middle eight” — the four minutes at the end of the first half and four minutes at the beginning of the second — was everything.

“We got the ball right there at the end of the first half,” Ridder said. “We knew we had to put points up on the board. ... That was huge for us.”

Ridder’s first touchdown set the stage for a productive offensive performance. He showed strength on the ground and skill in his passing game as he went 19-for-32 in the Falcons’ 25-24 victory.

Led by Ridder, the Falcons finished with 211 rushing yards and 237 passing yards — a significant change from 130 rushing yards and 115 passing yards against the Panthers a week ago.

Atlanta looked especially comfortable on the ground, relying on rushing in their scoring drives toward the end of the matchup. Ridder frequently turned to rookie running back Bijan Robinson, who recorded 124 yards on 19 carries, and running back Tyler Allgeier, who tallied 48 yards on 16 carries. Ridder’s decision to hand it off to the pair was critical as the Falcons cut into the Packers’ lead in the fourth quarter.

“He balled out today,” Robinson said of Ridder. “He kept his composure the whole time. The whole game. He was never rattled.”

Another strong option on the ground: Ridder himself. He rushed for 40 yards on nine carries, weaving along the side of the field and darting past Packers’ defenders.

Ridder seemed more comfortable with short passes, nailing a handful of short balls during the Falcons’ touchdown drive in the second quarter.

He said starting to get first downs set the tempo, as things opened up and players “got a little more juice.”

Ridder also had flashes of success with the deep ball, nailing a 45-yard pass to Mack Hollins during one of the Falcons’ critical scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

The quarterback’s decision-making was key to the Falcons’ eventual win, powering four consecutive scoring drives as Atlanta took the lead with a minute remaining.

Ridder said he didn’t panic when the Falcons were down by 12 or when he threw his first career interception on the second throw of the game. Instead, he took a deep breath and looked to the next play.

He said he’s embraced never getting too high or too low during his career.

“The energy feeds off (quarterbacks),” Ridder said. “We’re down, everyone’s going to be down. We’re up, everyone’s going to be up. For me, I try to remain neutral.”

Smith said Ridder embodied this calmness in his play during the scoring drive in the second quarter, too.

What sets Ridder apart in big moments like Sunday’s comeback? His spatial awareness, ability to extend plays and belief, Smith said.

“In those critical situations, he’s at his best,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “That’s in his history.”