The Falcons sit atop the NFC South after capturing their first road win with Desmond Ridder as the starting quarterback.
It was quite an ugly victory, but clubs should never apologize for the fashion in which they win games. It’s tough enough to do on its own. Ridder continues to progress as a passer but is still turning the ball over at an ungodly rate.
He followed up last week’s three-interception performance against the Commanders, which proved to be insurmountable, with three red zone fumbles. The Falcons actually became the first team to lose three fumbles in the red zone and still win the game in nearly two decades. Generally, if a team loses the turnover battle, they’ll lose the game.
The Falcons know that better than any. Atlanta dominated Washington in nearly every metric yet fell short in the ones that matter most — points and turnovers. Against the Buccaneers, they were a little more lucky.
Winning is a cure-all. If they had lost, we would be having a much different conversation about Desmond Ridder and how he doesn’t protect the ball. But they didn’t, and the national media is beginning to come around on the Falcons. The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen, Diante Lee, and Nick Baumgardner give their NFL takeaways each week, and they are starting to take Atlanta more seriously.
Nguyen: The Falcons look like the best team in the division. Their defense is underrated and held the Bucs to 13 points, sacked Baker Mayfield three times, and had two takeaways. They’re getting Kyle Pitts and Drake London the ball — though they need to figure out how to use Bijan Robinson. I actually think Desmond Ridder’s last few games have been encouraging. He’s making great downfield throws and driving the Falcons’ offense but the turnovers are a problem. Last week, he threw three interceptions and this week, he fumbled three times. All three were in the red zone Sunday. He’s typically not a wreckless thrower so I don’t think we’ll see many multiple interception games from him and the fumbles can be cleaned up with better attention to ball security. If they stop shooting themselves in the foot, the Falcons will win this division.
Lee: The Falcons should win this division, even if every win is an ugly one. Bijan Robinson only touched the ball once today, and the offense still averaged over four yards per carry and totaled 159 on the ground. Desmond Ridder is playing cleaner as a passer each week, averaging 10 yards per attempt and distributing targets evenly to Atlanta’s best playmakers — and I think he’s due for some regression to the mean in turnovers. This team is still struggling to chain together the combination of chunk plays and red zone/third down efficiency that made Arthur Smith’s offense so unstoppable in Tennessee, but the offense is coming into shape.
Baumgardner: The Falcons ran for 156 yards without Bijan Robinson today and Desmond Ridder had arguably his most efficient day as a passer — exactly what you’re looking for if you’re Arthur Smith. The Falcons have a lot of young talent, plenty of weapons on offense — if Ridder can be consistent. Tampa, in the meantime, gets roasted on the ground a week after getting shredded in the air vs. Detroit. The Bucs are trending down.
Everyone from fans to analysts is over-reactionary. All three of these guys have completely flipped their script after just one week in which the Buccaneers and Saints lost. What’s even funnier is they’ll switch up once the Falcons drop a couple of games.
They have a young quarterback who is learning on the job. There will be more highs and lows; fans have to remember that the easiest way to get to the postseason is by way of winning the division. As long as the lapses don’t happen against NFC South opponents, it’s all gravy.
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