Ridder, who benefitted from a key block by running back Tyler Allgeier on a blitz, rolled to his right and found Bernhardt in the end zone.
Smith was pleased with how the offense scored in the two-minute drill right before halftime and at the end of the game to pull out the victory.
“It’s so important to us, something that we try to work all the time,” Smith said. “You’ve got to play situational football in this league. I was proud of the way the guys competed.”
Ridder showed the poise of a veteran during those two-minute drives. He rushed two times for 39 yards to help get the offense in field-goal range at the end of the half. The game-winning touchdown pass came on fourth-and-9.
“Just being able to get points on the board,” Ridder said. “Whatever way. It was a field goal in the first half and obviously the touchdown there at the end of the game.”
Ridder knew he had to remain calm in both situations.
“When you start a two-minute drive, No. 1, taking care of the ball,” Ridder said. “Not taking sacks. Not having any dumb plays. But then you have to put points on the board. That’s obviously what we wanted to do.”
Veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota was impressed.
“He’s helped me get to where I’m at, too,” Ridder said.
It wasn’t a masterpiece of a game, though.
“We’ve got plenty of things we’ve got to clean up,” Smith said. “But these guys kept fighting, no matter what group was in there. That’s what you wanted to see.”
There were several dropped passes. But tight end Parker Hesse made up for one of his drops with a difficult touchdown grab.
“I knew after the one that I dropped two plays before, I had to go get that one,” Hesse said. “I was very upset about dropping that one, but I knew if I got another opportunity that I had to go make it count.”
The Falcons also had a strong ground game, which produced 168 yards on 29 carries. The quarterbacks combined for nine rushes for 82 yards scrambling. Smith said they were not designed quarterback runs.
Running back Qadree Ollison had five carries for 33 yards, including a long gain of 18 yards.
“It felt great,” Ollison said. “The offensive line really controlled the line of scrimmage today. That’s something that we’ve really been harping on and pressing on here throughout camp is moving the line of scrimmage and controlling the line of scrimmage. Those guys did a great job.”
Ollison described the benefit of the line play.
“There were lanes,” Ollison said. “There were lanes to run. Those guys did a great job of creating lanes for me to run. Just effort. There was a ton of effort out there. Those guys were grinding all the way to the whistle. So, you’ve got to always appreciate those guys in the trenches.”
The Falcons like getting the rushing yards from the quarterbacks.
“The one thing that you’ve seen from both of them is how dynamic they are,” Ollison said. “They can take off with their legs, and they can also throw the ball as well. There is a lot to our offense.”
The Falcons didn’t use running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson or tight end Kyle Pitts much. Neither received any touches or targets. Patterson played one snap, and Pitts played only 10.
“We have so many different pieces,” Ollison said. “We’ve got the run game, and then you have to worry about the quarterback running as well. Having those two guys who are mobile and able to throw the ball, that helps a lot.”
Ollison was pleased with his play, but wants to break longer runs.
“I think the biggest positive is that I feel like I ran hard,” Ollison said. “Then the next step is how can I make those runs that I had, how can I turn them into bigger runs. I want to break for 40-yard and 50-yard runs. I’m just working on that, too.”
The Bow Tie Chronicles