With the Falcons falling to the Ravens on Sunday, and the Saints and Panthers winning their games, Atlanta is officially eliminated from playoff contention.
The Atlanta Falcons have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. pic.twitter.com/EbQeDqu2HG
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 24, 2022
After a promising start to the season, which saw the Falcons — who many projected to be the worst team in the league — go 4-4 in their first eight games. They’ve lost six of their last seven, moving to 5-10 on the year.
That’s about what people expected when the season began, but their play over the last seven games doesn’t paint the entire picture. This is a roster deficient of talent, and they’ve competed valiantly each week. Eight of their ten losses on the year have been by one score. That’s substantial progress from what we saw in Arthur Smith’s first season at the helm. As a team, the Falcons have shown toughness week in and week out, and yesterday, we witnessed a substantial step forward for Desmond Ridder.
In Ridder’s first start against the Saints, he came out with the jitters. He settled down as the game went along, but he still finished with less than 100 yards passing on a 50% completion percentage. Ridder didn’t look anywhere close to a competent NFL quarterback, and the game against the Ravens started out similarly. He wasn’t even close with his accuracy in the first quarter, but a flip seemed to switch in the second.
Ridder wasn’t just a game manager over the last three quarters; he looked like a legitimate quarterback, leading the Falcons up and down the field through the air, something they haven’t done all season with Marcus Mariota under center. The scoreboard may have only read nine points at the end of the game, but the refs took several points off the board with egregious calls. The Falcons should have had a chance to win it at the end.
Ridder’s final stat line wasn’t eye-popping, but it was a vast improvement from his first start, which is all you can ask for out of a rookie third-round pick. He completed two-thirds of his passes for 218 yards — the second-most yards the Falcons have had through the air all season — and managed not to turn the ball over.
I’m still nowhere close to saying Ridder should be counted on to be the team’s next franchise quarterback. The Falcons will likely be in the position to draft a QB in the 2023 draft, and if there’s someone they like, they would be foolish not to take him. With that being said, when looking around the league at how other young quarterbacks are performing — Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Zach Wilson, etc. — I feel pretty good at where Ridder’s at after just two starts.
Photo: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire
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