The Falcons won a thriller in a critical divisional matchup with the Buccanneers on the road Sunday. It was the biggest win for the franchise since 2017, putting them in the driver’s seat in the NFC South. The Falcons are 4-3, sitting in sole possession of first place and are 2-0 in the division. There’s a lot to be happy about right now, but the game should have never come down to a game-winning 51-yard field goal.
The Falcons dominated the Bucs for four quarters. The defense was brilliant, limiting Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay offense to just 13 points, and the offense probably should have put up 30+ points. However, dismal mistakes from Desmond Ridder resulted in three turnovers in the red zone and put the game in jeopardy, allowing the Bucs to tie the game with under a minute to go.
Ridder has six turnovers over the last two weeks, and it felt like his three fumbles were once again going to cost the Falcons a game they should have won. However, with under a minute left to play, Ridder led his third game-winning drive of the season, highlighted by a 39-yard connection to Kyle Pitts, which set up Younghoe Koo with an opportunity to ice the game.
It’s a win that should have the Falcons faithful elated, but it’s impossible to ignore the abysmal decision-making from their starting quarterback, who continues to hold the Falcons back.
After the game, Arthur Smith was once again asked about Ridder’s performance, and the Falcons head coach continued to have his quarterback’s back.
Arthur Smith strongly supports Desmond Ridder:
"Guy played phenomenal in the pocket. It's his 11th start, just got a good win, so let's give him some credit, give this team some credit. We found a way to win. I know this about Desmond Ridder: he's tough, and he's a winner."
— Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) October 22, 2023
I’m actually going to side with Smith on this one. Earlier in the season, Smith stuck by Ridder’s side when I’m not sure it was warranted. Ridder had shown little to no improvement through the first four weeks, but these last three have been encouraging.
Desmond Ridder had his first game with over 300 yards against the Texans, followed it up with another 300 yard performance against the Commanders, and then went 19/25 with 250 yards against a good Bucs defense. He also added 38 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Desmond Ridder has to clean up the turnovers. He’s the primary reason the Falcons lost to the Commanders despite dominating the game, and he nearly cost the Falcons again against the Bucs with three fumbles in the red zone.
With that being said, Desmond Ridder is a young quarterback that is showing undeniable signs of improvement as a passer. This Falcons offense is beginning to look like how we thought it would look prior to the start of the season. Not to mention, Ridder hasn’t flinched in the face of adversity and has come up clutch at the end of games. It hasn’t been perfect, but that’s what’s to be expected from a young quarterback. However, we are starting to see tangible progress forward. The turnovers are fixable mistakes, and if Ridder can clean it up, the Falcons are going to win a lot of games.
Photo: Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon