Desmond Ridder’s debut came on the road against New Orleans, and we were equally apprehensive and excited about what that would mean for the Falcons. After Sunday, we know it means a frustrating day, one with flashes of promise but also plenty of mishaps from the rookie quarterback and this team more generally. It resulted in a narrow loss.
It was a day where Ridder largely struggled to throw but operated the offense fairly well, and a gifted ground game led by a fantastic Tyler Allgeier kept them in the game. The defense was bad much of the day but came up with a few crucial stops to give Atlanta the chance to win the game, and in the fourth quarter the Falcons were driving down just three points. After all that resilience and battling, it came down to a fourth down throw from Ridder to Drake London that was caught but then punched out, giving the Saints a fumble recovery that set them up to win the game. They gave Atlanta one more chance, but not with enough time to actually win the game, and now there are three 5-9 teams in the NFC South.
The Falcons are not out of anything, but they have to accept—and likely have accepted—that this is where they need to properly evaluate 2023 contributors. It was not an impressive debut by Ridder, but it’s good to get a longer look at him, alongside Tyler Allgeier, Drake London, Arnold Ebiketie, and others as the team tries to finally arrive as a contender next season. What they cannot do next year is lose to the Saints again, given that this all-time series is now tied for the first time in a very long while. It was a day with hopeful notes—Allgeier seems to have arrived, in particular—but it was also the same old Falcons falling short. We’ll want to see whether this ends up being an unfortunate debut for a successful Ridder at the helm of some very good Falcons teams, or a sign that our misery will be prolonged.
On to the full, instant recap for the game you just watched.
Saints ball to start things off. Andy Dalton had to scramble a bit and threw it too high on first down, Alvin Kamara then picked up a yard on second down. Unfortunately, on third down Dalton found Juwan Johnson for a first down, keeping the drive alive. Another one yard Kamara run was followed by a wide open look to Chris Olave for another first, and then Kamara picked up five on first down. Another first down shot brought the Saints to the Atlanta 20 yard line, and then a short run gave way to a Johnson reception where he stretched out and appeared to cross the goal line. The call on the field was a first down at the 1 yard line, but a challenge by Saints coach Dennis Allen was deemed successful and the Saints scored the touchdown. 7-0 Saints.
Desmond Ridder’s first pass was an aggressive deep sideline shot to Cordarrelle Patterson that was out of reach. Caleb Huntley followed that with a one yard pickup, and then Ridder got away from pressure to throw it to MyCole Pruitt on the sideline but it was ruled incomplete. The Falcons punted.
Five yards on first down for the Saints, and then Taysom Hill threw it to Rashid Shaheed for a grab and a long run for an easy score. The Falcons were already in a deep, deep hole. 14-0 Saints.
Tyler Allgeier picked up eight on an angry first down run, and then Desmond Ridder tried to hit Olamide Zaccheaus and saw the Saints pick up a (questionable) pass interference penalty. Cordarrelle Patterson lost one yard on first down, then Ridder took another deep shot that didn’t land close to Zaccheaus. Ridder’s third down throw was also off the mark, and the Falcons had to punt again.
The Saints picked up two yard with a David Johnson run, another five yards, and then a short pass for a first down. The Saints got nearly 10 on first down, but then Grady Jarrett made a big play to drop the Saints for a four yard loss. Lorenzo Carter then got the job done on third down, bringing Dalton down for a sack and forcing a New Orleans punt.
Patterson’s first down run tried to go outside but lost two yards. Then Ridder found Pruitt on a very short pass that went for seven yards, and then Ridder hit Drake London for a first down. On first down, Ridder had pressure coming and ran for seven yards, ending the quarter.
A weird Feleipe Franks direct snap and run got nothing, but Ridder hit London again for a first down. A Patterson run for four yards was followed by Ridder on the run hitting London AGAIN for a first down. Then a quick pass to Patterson picked up a few, but a second down pass inside the red zone was broken up by a Saints cornerback, and Ridder was taken down for a sack on third down. 14-3 Saints after a field goal.
The Saints immediately go past the 40 on a long pass to an open Olave, and then Kamara picked up a first down. Then another quick pass to Johnson picked up yet another first down. It looked hopeless for Atlanta, but then the ball came out and the Falcons picked it up inside the 20 to give the team the ball back and a needed shot of hope.
The Falcons picked up four yards on first down with Tyler Allgeier, and then a Ridder shot to London was popped out of his hands by a Saints defender. Ridder was nearly sacked but escaped and picked up a few yards, albeit short of a first down. Punt.
The Saints picked up a couple on first down, and then Taysom Hill picked up a first down on a run, because he’s the most annoying human being alive. A pass breakup from Jaylinn Hawkins and a three yard Hill run set up a third and 7, and then Dee Alford had a beautiful instance of coverage and physicality to force an incompletion on third down. Punt.
Allgeier picked up a first down on a pair of runs, one going eight yards and the second three, to get things rolling for Atlanta. Allgeier picked up six or seven on his next carry to bring us to the two minute warning. Ridder looked for London again but the pass was broken up by a Saints defender again, setting up a third and three yards. Allgeier got yet another first down, followed by a short catch that lost the Falcons a few yards. Ridder didn’t pick up much on a second down scramble, but Allgeier picked up 15 on 3rd down and 13 to keep the drive alive. Atlanta hit London on a quick screen and then called a timeout. A quick pass to Avery Williams picked up a few, and then incomplete passes followed (some on target, some not) to bring the Falcons to fourth down. Punt, and that brought us to halftime.
On the very first play of the second half, Ridder looked for London and threw a ball Alontae Taylor picked off. The play was reviewed, and thankfully it was ruled incomplete. Cordarrelle Patterson then got a first down, and then short plays gave way to a third down that Tyler Allgeier turned into a massive gain that took Atlanta nearly to the 10 yard line. A quick six yard gain made it 2nd and 4, and then dueling calls called for a replay of second down that resulted in one yard gain for Patterson. That set up a third down for Allgeier to run in a touchdown, which he did. 14-10 Saints.
Kamara picked up several yards on first down, followed by a short gain on second down and then a sneak for a first down. Unfortunately, the Falcons had trouble keeping the Saints from moving, with Kamara and Dalton picking up chunk yardage to keep things moving. Unfortunately for Atlanta, their best play of the drive—an Abdullah Anderson stop of Taysom Hill—gave way to another Juwan Johnson touchdown grab. 21-10 Saints.
The Falcons had a long field, but a pass interference call after a short Allgeier run helped make it more manageable. Patterson picked up five on first down, and then Ridder ran for a first down. Patterson got a couple on a run, one of his quieter days of the season continuing,
The Falcons unfortunately called a weird direct snap to Feleipe Franks that then went to Desmond Ridder, who failed to get rid of it and was sacked to set up 2nd and 15. Ridder hit Patterson for a very short gain and then couldn’t get Anthony Firkser on third down, setting up yet another punt.
The Saints seemed like they might be able to move, but a huge second down run stop by DeAngelo Malone and an even bigger third down sack by Rashaan Evans set the Falcons up to get a short punt that Avery Williams was able to bring back inside the 35.
The Falcons got a combined eight yards on two carries via Allgeier, setting up a third and short situation. Ridder kept it and ran for the first down on third down, thankfully. Patterson picked up a handful of yards, and then Ridder took off and picked up a few more. Allgeier had a big gain for a first down, Patterson picked up several more, and then Patterson punched in a long touchdown. Atlanta went for the two point conversion, but they did not convert, with a Cameron Jordan facemask erasing the poor result of that play. Tyler Allgeier bounced to the outside and punched it in and it was 21-18 Saints.
The Saints threw into double coverage immediately and it was broken up, followed by a good Kamara run and another incomplete pass forced by Jaylinn Hawkins delivering a big play. Punt.
The Falcons started deep in their own territory, and an Allgeier run and short Avery Williams grab made it 3rd and 1, with Allgeier then picking up the first down. Then Ridder hit Patterson over the middle for a first down, and Allgeier picked up another first down of his own. The first down throw was off the mark, the second down pass to Patterson got five, and then Ridder couldn’t hit Hesse on third down. The Falcons stayed on the field for fourth down, and Ridder found London for the first down...only to see the ball punched out and recovered by the Saints.
New Orleans only needed to get first downs and run the clock down, and they did both until they got stopped twice on third and then fourth down on run attempts, giving Atlanta the ball back with just nine seconds to go.
The Falcons got several yards on first down, and then Ridder ran it and tried to get out of bounds, but it happened after time had expired. That was game.