After Desmond Ridder's first game in Week 15 against the Saints, he talked about the need to have patience and be settled within the pocket.
This past week, throughout practice and in Saturday's 17-9 loss against the Baltimore Ravens, Ridder felt like he took that next step in letting things come to him naturally.
"Just being comfortable in there, trusting the guys up front to do their job, which they did, and trusting the guys on the outside to win, which they did," Ridder said. "Really just settling in, which I thought I did well. Like I said, I wish we could have settled in as soon as the ball [was] kicked off and, you know, that's something we'll continue to work on and keep being fast off the start. But as the game went on, I saw things get more comfortable and I just played the game."
The rookie quarterback threw for 218 yards, completing 22-of-33 passes for a 66.7 completion percentage and no turnovers. That's 121 yards more than what he threw against the Saints and 16 percent higher in his completion percentage.
That's a stark difference from one week to the next. Head coach Arthur Smith thought Ridder's decision-making was good against the Ravens and that he handled the pressure of Baltimore's stout defense well.
"He was pretty accurate," Smith said. "I don't have the numbers in front of me. I think he made some big-time throws when the game came into pressure. He got a hold of that in the second half. That's what you want to see. He's calm, he's collected, and I thought he delivered the football. There are a couple things here and there that we got to look at. Down there in the red zone, short yardage, things like that. I thought, from a pocket presence against a quality defense, he gave you a lot of looks."
Despite a relatively efficient performance from Ridder in his second start, the offense had trouble finding momentum in the first quarter after having two quick three-and-outs and a fourth down play that wasn't converted into a first down.
These pitfalls have been a constant talking point for players and coaches all season, yet, finding that consistency in those areas has been a struggle.
"Obviously, we want to come out and start fast every single game and finish the entire game and play complimentary football both offense and defense," Ridder said. "And that was something that we didn't do. We didn't get out there, we didn't start fast. I think we had two or three quick three-and-outs which really hurt our defense and put them back on the field really quick and that's something we just have to be better at on offense."
Ridder said that it's his "job to get the guys going and make sure everyone's good and juiced up and ready to go." He felt like pushing the ball downfield, converting on third downs and finding rhythm is something the Falcons struggled to do early.
Playing situational football is something the Falcons must be better at, Ridder said, to finish out the last two games of the season on a high note.
"When we go back and look again, that's, you know, red zone, third down and turnovers and making sure that we win all three of those things," Ridder said. "Obviously, situational football wasn't our best today. That's something we'll look at and grow and continue to get better at."