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Bair: Desmond Ridder's response to adversity brings out his best

The young Falcons quarterback proved something to fans, and himself, in his finest game as a professional. 

ATLANTA – Desmond Ridder insists that he treated this game week like any other. The Falcons quarterback would be excused for making the moment bigger with a personal motivation to rebound after two subpar outings that prompted questions about his job security.

Ridder refused to let distraction in. He tuned out the noise and locked in on what was required to beat Houston.

"I just put my head down and went to work," Ridder said.

His efforts were overwhelmingly positive and surely silenced some skeptics after throwing for 329 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another score in Sunday's 21-19 comeback win over the Texans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

He put up big numbers and orchestrated a game-winning drive. Even after all that, Ridder didn't pat himself on the back. He talked, instead, about continuing his development by using a "growth mindset."

He took that approach to the week, without hesitation or doubt in his ability.

"He came in confident every day. He got better every day," veteran backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke said. "You saw the determination throughout the week and it paid off here on Sunday."

Ridder was at his best when it mattered most, setting up Younghoe Koo's game-winning field goal as time expired. He was 5-for-5 for 45 yards on that fateful drive, methodically marching the Falcons down the field with well-timed short passes. Then, he went big, connecting with Drake London for a 23-yard strike that put the Falcons in field-goal range.

That was his last pass, with head coach Arthur Smith content to run out the clock and set up Koo's big moment. It punctuated an excellent, though not perfect, day at the office that drew praise from his boss.

Smith called it "pretty damn good."


It was a complete performance the Falcons wouldn't have won without.

"I think it says a lot about him; it's a tough job to be a quarterback in this league," Smith said. "That's what they sign up for. A lot of those guys are well compensated, (but it) takes a special mindset. He's got the right mindset. We know there's a lot of work to do. If we think we have all the answers today and we don't continue to improve and grow, you'll get humbled pretty quick. We're not going to take any victory laps. We're very pleased, and it was great to see his response this week."

It came after Ridder struggled to get the passing game going in London, with interceptions on consecutive passes – the first was a pick six – that hurt the Falcons in a 23-7 loss to Jacksonville in London. Smith was asked after that game if he considered a quarterback switch. He did not, and was ultimately pleased with how Ridder responded to first-half adversity.

Ridder evaluates his performance with a critical eye, caring only about what he and his coaches think.

"It's all within self," Ridder said. "You know, I really don't care what the outside world has to say. As long as myself and my teammates were on the same page, we're just going to keep getting better. Not only myself but the team as well, and just keep improving."

The Falcons rallied around their quarterback this week, showing support and belief in the second-year pro making his ninth professional start. Life isn't always easy on young quarterbacks, and Ridder has made some good plays and others he'd like to retract. Such is life in the NFL, but his response to setbacks has been consistent.

Ridder is committed to development, to learning from mistakes. He was able to do that on Sunday, to rebound from lackluster performances with his best game as a professional.

"He was phenomenal," tight end Jonnu Smith said. "I was impressed, but I wasn't shocked. The kid has got it, man. I know he takes a lot of heat, but he just wants to continue to improve and get better. He's got the right tools. He's got the right mindset."

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Houston Texans during Week 5.

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