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Arthur Smith: Desmond Ridder played with ‘great poise and demeanor’

Jan 1, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) passes the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons are a work in progress under the direction of second-year head coach Arthur Smith.

But after a last-second 20-19 win over the Arizona Cardinals snapped a four-game losing streak, rookie Desmond Ridder is beginning to make an argument to be the team’s future at quarterback.

In this third career start, Ridder orchestrated a 12-play, 72-yard game-winning drive, which was capped by Younghoe Koo’s 21-yard field goal as time expired.

The win improved Atlanta’s record to 6-10 and gave Smith’s team a shot of momentum before the team hosts the first-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) in Sunday’s season finale.

Ridder completed 19 of 26 passes for 169 yards on the day. On the Falcons’ last drive, he was 3-for-3 for 31 yards, which included a key 14-yard completion to tight end MyCole Pruitt. Smith said Monday that he had all the belief in the world that his quarterback could execute with the game on the line.

“We could’ve gone super conservative and run it and see what happens and force them to use their timeouts,” Smith said. “But we decided to be aggressive and trust Desmond and the offensive unit. I like the way he operated. That’s three games in a row where I thought in the fourth quarter, when you needed him, he’s had great poise and demeanor so it shows the trust we have in him and the offensive unit.”

Pruitt has seen his role expand in recent weeks after being on the practice squad. The seventh-year pro had four receptions for a team-high 49 yards against the Cardinals.

“MyCole is a guy that I coached at Tennessee,” Smith said. “We picked him up in 2018 off Houston’s practice squad. … Sometimes it takes some time for those guys to find a role. It’s a tough position to play, especially depending on your scheme.

“I think he’s a really smart and instinctive player. He’s played some really meaningful snaps for us. He had a pretty bad injury last year so that was part of the reason why he didn’t sign with anybody. But he’s taken advantage of the opportunity here. Obviously, we have a lot of trust in him and clearly Desmond does too.”

–Left guard has been a revolving door for Atlanta due to injuries, but Matt Hennessy got the start there against Arizona and played well.

“It was nice to see Matt Hennessy to get in there and contribute,” Smith said. “We’ve played a lot of guys different guys at left guard. He played well in that spot and it was good to see.”

–Tyler Allgeier had 20 carries for 83 yards and a score against Arizona. He is 100 yards shy of 1,000 in his rookie campaign.

–Koo is 23 of 24 on field goal attempts inside of 50 yards. He is 6 of 10 on kicks between 50 and 59 yards.

–The Falcons released practice squad wide receiver Cameron Batson on Monday after he was arrested over the weekend. Batson has yet to be released from Fulton County jail as of Monday afternoon and faces five charges: aggravated assault, battery, aggravates assault against a law enforcement officer when engaged on official duty, removal or attempted removal of weapon from public official and driving/fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.

–Field Level Media