NEW ORLEANS – There was plenty of hype surrounding Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, for obvious reasons.
The Falcons made a quarterback switch, setting Desmond Ridder up to make his NFL debut. And a win was essential to keep legitimate NFC South hopes alive.
A win here at Caesers Superdome would set the Falcons up well for a big finish. It would also mean Ridder got off to a good start.
A loss would count as a severe setback.
The result was unwelcome, a 21-18 loss to the rival Saints that came down to the wire.
Let's dive deeper into this one and see what stood out during this Week 15 contest.
Rapid reaction to Ridder's first day
Falcons fans were focused on Desmond Ridder Sunday afternoon, when he made his NFL debut in New Orleans. The third-round pick had his fair share of rookie moments in this one, as you'd expect but, just watching the game live (while writing this story) he showed solid arm strength, elusiveness in the pocket and a strong connection with fellow rookie Drake London.
London received the lion's target share, totaling seven catches for 70 yards on 11 targets. The Falcons still had a tough time moving the ball consistently through the air. Ridder certainly wants a few throws back – there were two near interceptions that ended up being ultimately incomplete – but there were some positive signs that may not show up as overwhelming stats.
His stat line won't wow you. It may even raise an eyebrow. 13-for-26 for 97 yards isn't good. NFL rookie debuts rarely are at the quarterback position. He stayed away from mistakes that became critical, though, which kept the Falcons in it late when combined with an explosive run game.
And, as we all know, quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses, appropriately or not. The Falcons were in it, and the defense gave Ridder the ball had seven minutes left to go get three points to tie or more to win. That ended prematurely, with Desmond Ridder throwing a fourth-down strike to Drake London, who fumbled a ball that the Saints recovered. Hard to blame that outcome on the quarterback, though.
Turns out, Ridder got another shot. Though there wasn't much time on the clock. The last-ditch attempt didn't work out, though, as the Falcons ended up losing a tough one.
The passing game wasn't efficient enough, though Ridder has the tools required to play at this level. Over time, chemistry and sync could improve to the point that the air attack becomes more of a weapon than it is right now.
Tyler Allgeier hits triple digits
The best-looking rookie on the field Sunday afternoon was not new quarterback Desmond Ridder. Running back Tyler Allgeier was at his best, rushing with tackle-breaking power and elusiveness against the Saints. He got the Falcons back in the game with a 5-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, cutting the Saints lead to 14-10. He was the catalyst on that important drive, with a 43-yard run to get Atlanta into the red zone.
He converted several big plays throughout the game, finishing with 139 yards on 17 carries, for an 8.2-yard average. It's the first 100-yard game for Allgeier, who's the first rookie to reach triple digits since 2015.
Allgeier his emerged as a consistently productive player who fits well into the Falcons offensive system, proving tough to bring down rushing inside and out.
He's clearly an important part of the team' present and future, with the rushing style and toughness required to be consistently productive in this league.
Falcons deal with early deficit
The Falcons were down two scores in a flash. Like, really fast. New Orleans scored on it's opening drive, using 10 plays to go 75 yards. The last was a 19-yard touchdown catch by Juwan Johnson. Their next possession was far shorter, lasting two plays and highlighted by a 68-yard catch-and-run by Rashid Shaheed. The Falcons responded to those drives with seven plays for 28 yards and no scores, establishing a negative game script and a significant deficit barely decreased with a lone Younghoe Koo field goal.
That's a tough predicament to put a young quarterback into, but the defense calmed down significantly after that. They forced two punts and took the ball away on the next three full possessions of the first half, keeping it within a reasonable distance as the second half progressed. The Falcons gave up a touchdown ultimately cut the Saints lead to three and had a shot to go win it at the end that ultimately fell short.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here, with this result fresh in your mind, for inclusion in Monday's mailbag.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints during Week 15.