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5 things we learned against the Texans: Desmond Ridder ain’t dead

Taylor Heinicke better enjoy the bench because that’s where he’s staying this season.

NFL: Houston Texans at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

We learned the Falcons can bounce back and win after a few down weeks, but more than that, we learned more about the now 3-2 Falcons from top to bottom.

Let’s dive right into it, starting with the most popular item this week and every week: Desmond Ridder.

Desmond Ridder refuses to be written off

Where has this Desmond Ridder been? Ridder looked like a veteran quarterback early and often. He got the Texans defense to jump three times in the first half on hard counts. The guy who had been staring down his top read was instead staring off safeties and moving through progressions. The confidence was there and we saw something else we haven’t seen from Ridder before: throwing the deep ball.

Ridder bounced back from his career worst to his career best game. Most impressive was he didn’t just do some things better, he showed the full package. He looked like a quality starting quarterback. Expect more ups and downs as the young passer develops but Ridder won’t let Taylor Heinicke take snaps anytime soon, and it’s nice to put that notion to rest so decisively.

The secondary is stout

I don’t want to overstate this, because, for starters, the Falcons are missing a top-shelf EDGE and the lack of linebacker speed with Troy Andersen out is problematic. But this team has taken such a big step since 2022.

Atlanta’s typically problematic third down defense has done a 180. Falcons defense also forced multiple 3-and-outs both early and late. We’ve talked about the defensive line but today we saw a lot of good out of the secondary. Dee Alford made a big play on third down in the first half and Jessie Bates is fearless in run support. CJ Stroud looks legit, with one very impressive arm, but the Falcons were able to keep things contained. The secondary has been doing some significant heavy lifting to slow down offenses.

Penalties are costing the Falcons

The Falcons played good football but aren’t playing clean football. Atlanta was penalized 7 times for 55 yards on Sunday, with the game starting off with back to back penalties on the Falcons. Penalties also pushed Atlanta out of field goal range twice.

Also frustrating is David Onyemata was penalized at the end of the half, on the same play Robert Woods was down with an injury — the latter would have ended the half if not for the penalty. The Texans scored. The Falcons need to clean up the penalties and fast to prevent them from costing them future games.

The offensive line struggled to open running lanes

Preseason predictions regarding the offensive line have proven to be completely worthless. The Falcons made improvements to its offensive line by adding Matthew Bergeron at left guard, and they hoped for more progress thanks to more experience from their other four linemen. With the addition of Bijan Robinson to complement Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Falcons should have the best running game in the league.

The team finished with an embarrassing 2.7 yards per carry. Teams are rightly keying in on the run game, but with the team’s design, it should be able to do much better. The good news is Ridder stayed clean in the pocket, but with teams less likely to stick everyone at the line of scrimmage, the blocking has to be better so the Falcons can run wild.

Bijan Robinson is so good

No words can do justice to this camera angle.