Until Sunday, the Falcons hadn’t lost at home. Until Sunday, they hadn’t lost to a team deploying a quarterback with fewer starts than Desmond Ridder. Over 10 NFL games, Ridder has thrown six interceptions. Half of those came in Sunday’s second half.
People were upset with Ridder after his London performance – two interceptions, one fumble. They’re more ticked today. I’d suggest we return to that number – 10 NFL starts. Know how many INTs Matt Ryan had after 10 pro games? Six. He wound up being rookie of the year.
And now you’re saying, “Ridder’s not a rookie.” Factually he’s not, though essentially he is. This is his team. Last year’s wasn’t. He’s not a finished product. There’s a chance he won’t be, which would mean Arthur Smith picked the wrong quarterback, which could mean this coach won’t be around to pick the next quarterback. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
Ridder by the numbers: 24th in passer rating, 21st in completion percentage, 20th in yards per pass. That’s not Pro Bowl stuff, but what did you expect? He was the 74th pick in 2022. He’s not C.J. Stroud. (Although Ridder’s team beat Stroud’s team, if only just.)
Four games in, my issue with Ridder – and Smith – was that the Falcons were throwing it sideways. They’d averaged 186 yards passing and 6.25 yards per attempt. The past two weeks have seen them average 318 yards and 7.57 YPA. That’s more like it.
Trouble is, they’re not scoring enough. The Dolphins had 70 points in one game; the Falcons have 96 in six. This club has sunk draft capital into skill players. Drake London is 35th among NFL players in receiving yards. Kyle Pitts is 55th, six spots below Jonnu Smith. Who’s calling these plays? (Answer: A. Smith.)
Nurturing a young quarterback isn’t easy. Still, there’s a disconnect between the Falcons’ total offense (15th) and points per game (29th). Some of that is Ridder not yet being a difference-maker. Some, but not all.
The season’s nadir – though the season’s still young – was taking a final timeout on a final drive after spiking the ball to save that timeout. When a team appears not to know what to do, it’s usually because it hasn’t been taught.
(As for the failed 2-point try: Per analytics, that’s the thing to do when rallying from 14 down. Make it and you can win with a kicked PAT after the next touchdown; fail on the first and you can still tie with a deuce after the second TD. It didn’t work, but it wasn’t – no matter what the CBS crew, of which Ryan was a part, said – a coaching malfunction.)
The Falcons shouldn’t have lost to Washington, but one wobble can be excused. The tale of this season will be told in the four games with Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Chapter 1 will be written Sunday.