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Backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke stepped in and up during Falcons loss to Titans

Taylor Heinicke completed 12 of his 21 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's Week 8 loss.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sunday showed why Taylor Heinicke is on the Atlanta Falcons roster.

The backup quarterback had to step in for starter Desmond Ridder after a halftime switch was made inside the visiting locker room at Nissan Stadium, and Heinicke stepped up to the task in the Falcons' 28-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 8.

"I was actually taking a leak," Heinicke said. "I hear Arthur call my name. I came out, and he said, 'You're in.'"

Heinicke replaced starter Desmond Ridder at the beginning of the second half. Smith pulled Ridder to be evaluated for a concussion. Ridder was cleared, but Smith erred on the side of caution and plugged Heinicke into the offense instead.

Through the first two quarters, Ridder completed eight of his 12 passes for 71 yards. He was sacked five times for a loss of 36 yards, and he lost a fumble that eventually turned into a Titans touchdown.

Then, through the final two quarters, Heinicke completed 12 of his 21 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked once for a loss of 8 yards.

In this first half, the Falcons netted 89 offensive yards. In the second half, they had 253 net yards offensively.

"Taylor came in, did great and did the job," Ridder said. "(He) got moving, put points on the board. At the end of the day, it's a game of being able to come out and execute. The past couple of weeks have been tough, as far as the execution part of it."

Sunday's turnover was Ridder's seventh in the last three games.

Under Ridder's control, the Falcons put up just three points thanks to a field goal. The other 20 points came through Heinicke. Atlanta added two more field goals and two touchdowns. Running back Bijan Robinson scored on a 13-yard run. Heinicke connected an 8-yard pass to wide receiver Scotty Miller in the end zone.

"It was fun," Heinicke said. "Obviously it's my first really regular season in this offense with these guys. They're very supportive. Those guys battle. They battled until the very end."


The Falcons' comeback effort in the fourth quarter fell short on a fourth-and-1 play within the 2-minute warning. Heinicke threw the ball to wide receiver Van Jefferson, and it slipped right through his hands. Jefferson owned up to the drop afterward.

Otherwise, Heinicke had been able to get the Falcons back into the game after going into halftime down 14-3.

Atlanta's ability to operate more efficiently with Heinicke at the helm was questioned.

"We stuck to the game plan: take the easy completion, take the guy that's open and try to get first downs," Heinicke said. "If you get enough first downs, next thing you know you're in scoring position. Then, once we get down there, it's trying to score touchdowns.

"I think the first two drives we ended up with field goals. I'll go back and look at film. Maybe there's some things I could have done better and maybe we could have scored touchdowns. But we moved the ball pretty good in the second half. Just came up short."

Smith wouldn't say whether the Falcons' starting quarterback situation will change moving forward. He did say the decision to sit Ridder was not performance related, though. Solely health.

Heinicke wasn't self-promoting, either, for a Week 9 change.

"This is Desmond's team," Heinicke said. "He's played great throughout the year. Obviously there's a couple hiccups here and there, but he's progressing every week. He's working hard. Logan (Woodside) and I are doing everything we can to help him in any way we can. Obviously, ultimately, that's Arthur's decision. But tomorrow, we're going to come in, try to get better from the film and proceed as usual."

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans during Week 8.

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