Nov 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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Falcons backup QB Taylor Heinicke to start over Desmond Ridder

Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder is headed back to the bench, with backup Taylor Heinicke bumped up to the starting role for Sunday’s game with the Indianapolis Colts in Atlanta.

Ridder has 21 turnovers this season and the Falcons lost two games in an eight-day span to plummet from first place in the NFC South. His interception on a potential game-winning drive last Sunday at Carolina was a critical mistake head coach Arthur Smith couldn’t overlook.

Smith hinted at making another change Monday, noting he didn’t want to be in a situation to flip-flop quarterbacks this late in the season.

“That’s usually not a great situation to have,” Smith said. “You want to be fair and objective and obviously give people an opportunity. It was a belief in him, no matter what happens. It doesn’t mean anybody’s career is over, but we have to do what’s best for this team right now.”

Big-picture questions remain unanswered, such as whether benching Ridder for the second time in seven weeks spells the end of the 2022 third-round pick’s tenure with the Falcons.

But in the short term and despite having lost two straight to division rivals Tampa Bay and Carolina, Atlanta is very much alive for the postseason. The Falcons are one game behind the Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in the South.

The Falcons (6-8) are also just one game back in the wild-card chase entering Sunday’s regular-season home finale against the Colts (8-6) before road trips to Chicago and New Orleans to close out the season.

“We had a great opportunity and unfortunately, we’ve lost two games in eight days,” Smith said. “And that’s on us. It’s not anyone’s fault but our own. But there’s still life out there and we have to rally and prepare against a really good Indianapolis team coming in here.”

Ridder was 12-of-20 passing for 152 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Panthers. On the season, he has passed for 2,528 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ridder has also rushed for a team-high five touchdowns. But he’s thrown 10 interceptions, fumbled 11 times and committed five turnovers inside the red zone.

Heinicke started in a 31-28 loss to Minnesota in Week 9 and completed 21 of 38 passes for 268 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He also started in the 25-23 loss to Arizona in Week 10 and completed 8 of 15 passes for 55 yards and a score before being replaced by Ridder in the fourth quarter following a hamstring injury.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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