Ridder suffers regression as another 3-turnover game handcuffs Falcons in loss to Commanders

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank listens to a news conference after an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Atlanta. Washington Commanders won 24-16. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)(AP/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (AP) — Desmond Ridder’s second three-turnover game in his last three starts left the second-year quarterback open for renewed questions about his inconsistency and even his job security as the Atlanta Falcons’ starter.

Ridder threw three interceptions and also committed key grounding and delay penalties which hurt the Falcons in their 24-16 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday.

“Obviously, that’s tough right there to go out there and put up that showing,” Ridder said. “We had plenty of opportunities to go down and put points on the board, plenty of opportunities when you’re moving the ball and getting things going. Coming up short, that’s tough for us.”

The Falcons’ mistakes were not all on Ridder. Coach Arthur Smith was second-guessed for his decision to call for a 2-point play early in the fourth quarter after Ridder’s second touchdown pass cut Washington’s lead to 24-16. The play failed.

Smith acknowledged there were other operational breakdowns, including the need to use a timeout on the Falcons’ final possession after Ridder stopped the clock by downing the ball. Ridder then threw his final interception on a third-and-1 pass when Washington linebacker Jamin Davis cut in front of running back Bijan Robinson.

“Some of our operations weren’t very clean,” Smith said. “We’ll get that cleaned up. That’s on all of us. We have to get better.”

The interceptions again left Ridder in the spotlight. He endured another three-turnover game — two interceptions, including a pick-6, and a lost fumble in Atlanta’s 23-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Oct. 1.

Ridder had strong answers for his critics last week when he passed for a career-high 329 yards with a touchdown without an interception, and added a 7-yard scoring run in a 21-19 home win over Houston.

Sunday’s struggles looked like a regression for Ridder as the Falcons (3-3) fell back to .500.

Smith stuck with Ridder against the Commanders and still hasn’t used veteran backup Taylor Heinicke in a regular-season game. Smith had a quick answer when asked if Ridder showed panic by throwing an interception following a delay penalty in the fourth quarter.

“No, it’s not panic,” Smith said. “There’s so much that goes into it, so many logistics. There’s one thing Des is not going to do is panic. That’s not what it is. It was miscommunication. It happened.”

Ridder also said there was a communication breakdown on his pass intended for Drake London that was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste.

“Drake turned one way, I threw it the other,” Ridder said.

There was no consolation to be found in Ridder’s second straight 300-yard game in what had been a run-dominant offense. Ridder completed 28 of 47 passes for 307 yards with touchdown passes to tight ends Jonnu Smith and Kyle Pitts.

Through six games, Ridder has six touchdown passes with six interceptions. It is an unsustainable pace for a team hoping to end its streak of five straight losing seasons and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

“What I think is great for this team is in that game there’s a lot of things to learn from,” Ridder said. “There’s a lot of things that went wrong in there that we have done right in the past that we just did wrong right there. There are things to learn from that I think will only make us better.”


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