The Falcons made Will Levis look like a star in his NFL debut, but the biggest storyline from Sunday’s 28-23 road loss was Atlanta’s quarterback situation.
Desmond Ridder had a forgettable first half, throwing for 71 yards on 8-of-12 passing while running for 26 yards. He was sacked five times and lost a fumble, which has become an expectation for him at this point.
Ridder is responsible for nine touchdowns and nine turnovers this season. He has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions as well as three rushing touchdowns and three lost fumbles. It seemed like another typical Falcons Sunday. The club was down going into the half, and Ridder was going to have to lead another improbable comeback.
Then, the game got much more interesting. It was Taylor Heinicke who was under center to start the third quarter, and the offense took off. The veteran went 12-of-21 for 175 yards and a touchdown, running twice for 14 yards. Heinicke was sacked only once and recorded a passer rating that was 20 points better than Ridder.
The Falcons offense looked much more effective with Heinicke on the field, and the Titans felt the same way. When asked what Heinicke brought to Atlanta’s offense, Jeffery Simmons was very complimentary of the veteran, telling reporters that he was getting the ball out quicker than Ridder after mentioning his running ability.
Titans DL Jeffrey Simmons on what Taylor Heinicke brought to the Falcons' offense, mentioned his running ability and added this:
"He was getting the ball out a little quicker than (Desmond) Ridder, of course."
— Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) October 30, 2023
Simmons recorded a pair of sacks in the first half, to go with two more tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. He was on his way to having a career performance had Ridder stayed in the game.
It doesn’t take a football savant to watch Sunday’s contest and tell the difference between the Falcons’ first and second-half performances. Desmond Ridder has constantly put the ball in harm’s way, and it’s not like Taylor Heinicke is some conservative thrower, but he’s more experienced and effective in this sample size.