FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — After the Falcons' disjointed Week 6 loss to the Washington Commanders, Desmond Ridder had to look in the proverbial mirror and see what he could have done better.
It's not hard for the young quarterback to look inward, despite throwing three interceptions in a game where the Falcons led in almost every statistical category. It's necessary.
"It's refreshing to coach a guy like Des because he is honest, aware and coachable," Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. "He's a real person."
Ridder said he has trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights if he doesn't watch the game back, compiling notes for Monday's film session. He's learned through those film sessions, and others, that he gets in trouble when he's trying to do too much. Instead, he said Wednesday that he needs to stay within the play call.
That was crystal clear on his second interception against the Commanders in the fourth quarter of the loss. Ridder threw the ball into the hands of a Washington defender in the endzone. The ball was intended for Drake London. Looking back, Ridder said if he just stuck with the play, he could've hit London for a touchdown. The drive, Ridder added, could have ended with a Dirty Bird dance instead of no points on third-and-goal, down two scores.
All of this is not to say that Ridder, and the Falcons' pass game overall, hasn't improved. He's taken coaching notes from earlier this season and applied them to become a more comfortable passer.
In Week 5 against the Houston Texans, Ridder broke 300 yards passing for the first time in his career. Then, he followed it up with another 300-passing yard performance against the Commanders.
He's been more accurate when throwing the deep ball, too. In the first four weeks of the season, Ridder was 41.7% with a 54.2 rating when throwing 20 or more yards, according to Next Gen Stats. In the last two games, he completed 60% of those passes with a 104.2 rating.
"He's making some big-time throws and guys are doing a good job of getting open," Smith said. "That part of our offense is clearly expanding."
Ridder said he's feeling more comfortable in the pocket. This is evident in him being able to get the ball out quicker and taking fewer sacks. He was tied for fourth in the league in sacks taken in the first four weeks, but tied for 26th in the last two games, according to Stathead.
The second-year quarterback has the chance to improve at every practice when competing against the Falcons' top-five defense. They don't make it easy on him, just ask assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray.
"He's a guy that competes every day in practice, and it's not going to be sugarcoated," Gray said. "He's gonna be a good football player, trust me."
Gray said the next step for Ridder is learning that you can't make every throw. He believes the Falcons quarterback will make the correct reads.
"He has a temperament of not getting down on himself," Gray said. "He knows he made the mistakes, but he's not going to get down on himself. He's gonna come back and battle."
If you listen closely to Ridder's voice, you'll hear an even temperament with a tone that rarely changes pitch. This mimics where he's trying to stay as a young quarterback with "neutral thinking."
It's a mentality he first adopted in college, riding the roller coaster of being a non-Power Five team flying under the radar to then busting into the elusive College Football Playoff. Ridder was a force for Cincinnati and helped lead them to the national stage.
He learned to be coachable years before that, though.
"The hardest players to coach are the ones who are going to be stubborn. I learned that at a young age going through grade school, through high school," Ridder said. "There's going to be hard coaching, there's going to be people who yell at you, there's gonna be people who cuss at you. It's not really how they say it, it's what they're saying."
He knows when things are clicking and wins are stacking up, all is well. But when they're not (like in the Washington game when turnovers and miscommunication accumulated) the finger is pointed right at him as the quarterback. He understands this, and it pushes him to get the Falcons (3-3) back above .500 again.
"There's good and there's bad, but you got to learn from both," Ridder said. "You got to learn how to be better in the good and how to be better in the bad."
Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work in Flowery Branch for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.