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Despite his struggles throughout the first half of the season that ultimately led to his benching, the Atlanta Falcons are still confident in quarterback Desmond Ridder’s long-term outlook (via The Athletic’s Dianna Russini).
“Inside the building, there is still strong belief Ridder is their guy this season despite costly turnovers in critical situations.”
Ridder didn’t play in the second half of the Falcons’ Week 8 loss to the Tennessee Titans as he was placed in concussion protocol. Despite eventually clearing protocol, head coach Arthur Smith announced that backup Taylor Heinicke would start Atlanta’s upcoming matchup against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
In 2023, Ridder has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,701 yards while tossing six touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. The Falcons rank just 28th in scoring offense.
However, the team is currently tied for the NFC South lead with a 4-4 record due to a stout defense that’s allowing just 20.1 points per game. With a 2-0 record in the division, the Falcons’ chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 2017 are looking solid.
With two games remaining until the team’s bye week, Heinicke is likely viewed as a short-term solution rather than a long-term answer.
“We’re not looking at the long-term right now,” Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said, per Terrin Waack of atlantafalcons.com. “Right now, we’re focusing on Minnesota, obviously, with Taylor. There were a lot of variables (when deciding to switch from Ridder). … Really, our focus is short-term and what gives us the best chance Sunday with everything being considered.”
The 30-year-old backup has plenty of experience, starting in 15 games for Washington during the 2021 season. He compiled a 7-8 record that year, throwing for 3,419 yards and 20 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.
In the second half against Tennessee after Ridder left, Heinicke completed 12 of 21 passes for 175 yards and a score.
“You get into moments in the season where things come up,” Smith said (via Waack). “(Heinicke) is a legitimate pro. That’s why we like him. He goes in there, and it’s not an easy job coming out of the bathroom and being told, ‘Hey, here’s the ball. Go play.’ But that’s what make Taylor who he is and why we have a special appreciation for him.”
Heinicke will start under center against the Vikings on Sunday, with kickoff at 1 p.m. ET.