ATLANTA (AP)A popular postgame question for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday: Did Desmond Ridder look at his receivers too long?
The need for that inquiry may lead to another question becoming popular this week: Will coach Arthur Smith look only at one quarterback when planning for the Falcons next game? Is it time to wonder if veteran Taylor Heinicke is moving closer to getting a shot to jumpstart the struggling Atlanta offense?
This is Ridder’s first full season as the Atlanta starter, and he’s only four games into the season. He was 2-2 in his four-game audition as the starter to close the 2022 season, and he’s again 2-2 to open 2023.
Suddenly, there’s new reason for concern. The Falcons have scored only one touchdown in their past two games. Such struggles could put any offense or any quarterback under close scrutiny.
It was much easier to lobby for patience when the second-year quarterback was avoiding mistakes in the first three games than when his three turnovers helped sink the Falcons in their 23-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Ridder’s two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and one lost fumble cast the quarterback in a different light. The turnovers shortened the game for an Atlanta offense already struggling to capitalize on its opportunities.
“The reality is we put ourselves in a hole and can’t turn the ball over,” Smith said. “So that’s something we all got to look at. It’s not just one person.”
Ridder acknowledged “I could have held my eyes in a better place” on his first interception, a pass intended for tight end Kyle Pitts. He said he “didn’t get my eyes over there quick enough” when his pass for Drake London was intercepted.
Smith spoke of “tough, tough lessons for a young quarterback.”
Optimism generated by Atlanta’s 2-0 start has faded as back-to-back losses have the Falcons at 2-2. Smith can be expected to maintain confidence in Ridder as the Falcons prepare to play Houston on Sunday.
Rookie Bijan Robinson has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of his first four games. He ran for 105 yards on 14 carries against the Jaguars and added five receptions for 32 yards.
Robinson’s role as Atlanta’s lead back seems to be growing. Tyler Allgeier had only seven carries for 16 yards against the Jaguars.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Seeing former Atlanta wide receiver Calvin Ridley now playing for Jacksonville, and producing a 30-yard touchdown reception, only served to highlight the Falcons’ glaring need for a big-play threat at the position. Drake London had three catches, including a 15-yarder for Atlanta’s only touchdown. Tight end Jonnu Smith accounted for almost half of the team’s 191 receiving yards as he had six catches for 95 yards.
Other than Smith, no player had a catch for longer than 15 yards.
Safeties Richie Grant and Jessie Bates combined for 19 tackles as the defense, which allowed one touchdown and three field goals, again played well. Defensive tackle David Onyematta added a sack and end Calais Campbell had six tackles. The defense didn’t produce a takeaway but that was the only complaint.
Pitts was targeted four times and was held to two catches for 21 yards. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 draft, Pitts played up to his hype when he had 68 catches for 1,026 yards as a rookie. After his 2022 season was shortened by a knee injury, Pitts has managed only 11 catches in his first four games.
Defensive back Dee Alford returned to the game against Jacksonville after being checked for a concussion.
16: Ridder already has been sacked 16 times, including four times by the Jaguars. He has been accused of holding the ball too long at times but poor pass protection deserves at least partial blame.
The Falcons will be home for their next two games, including Sunday’s visit from Houston and an Oct. 15 game against Washington.
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