Skip to main content

Inside Tori's Notebook: Dissecting Desmond Ridder's 329 passing yards vs. Texans, the receivers who made an impact

Double-digit receivers were involved in Desmond Ridder's best day through the air. That matters for Atlanta moving forward. 

Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori McElhaney re-opens her game notebook to look back at her notes, questions and observations from the Falcons most recent game. Tori breaks down her thoughts and gives her analysis on what happened and why it's notable.


FEELIN' A BIT BETTER -- Keith Smith leaked through the protection and wheeled his way towards the Falcons sideline in the second quarter of the Falcons 21-19 win over the Houston Texans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The defender likely in charge of Smith made a slight move back toward Tyler Allgeier in the flat. It was enough of a hesitation to allow Smith to breeze right by him. The ball sailed through the air and landed in his waiting arms.

The play registered as a 28-yard catch, the longest of Smith's 10-year career.

After the game, quarterback Desmond Ridder was asked which throw (of his 28 completions on the day) he was most proud of. He at first didn't seem keen on answering the question, saying, "No. I wouldn't say there was one I'm proud of." But then he kept talking, seemingly answering the question anyway.

"A cool throw, just because he doesn't get the ball a lot, was the one to Keith Smith," Ridder said. "Keith Smith got through there; it wasn't exactly how we designed it up, but it worked. And, obviously, that's a big play for him to be able to go get that ball, and it was a big play for the offense as well."

As players on the sideline were celebrating Smith's catch, up in the press box, I was putting a little star beside the play in my notebook. I wanted to remember it. The issue that I ran into, though, was by the time the game ended, I had little stars sprinkled all throughout the pages I used up for the game itself. The stars ultimately ended up representing the most exciting plays of the day for the Falcons offense. What's wild wasn't that there were stars everywhere in my notebook. What's wild was the fact that all of the stars were plays to illustrate Ridder's 329-yards passing day, the best of his nine-game career. That, and there were so many different names beside the stars.

In the end, Kyle Pitts and Drake London were the Falcons leading receivers Sunday, but they made up about 46% of Ridder's targets ( as well they should, one would argue). The other 54% was spread out to just about everyone else, with Jonnu Smith leading the charge early.

For the first time this season (and the other games aren't really even close), Ridder completed a pass to 10 different Falcons receivers en route to a 300-plus-passing-yard day. That number actually balloons to 11 when you count Tyler Allgeier's 2-point conversion catch. I know that play doesn't count towards or against an official stat line, but I am counting it. That play had a star beside it, after all. So, I have to. Those are the rules.

When you look back at the Falcons latest win to get them over .500 on the year, you see virtually every available receiver, tight end and running back involved in the pass game.

Let's break it down: There was a large chunk of the passes going to your No. 4 and No. 8 overall picks from the 2021 and 2022 NFL Draft (as illustrated in the percentages above). There was seven targets going Jonnu Smith's way, a player the Falcons traded for this offseason. There was MyCole Pruitt coming up with a key 22-yard catch on third down. There was Cordarrelle Patterson slowly getting back involved with a 7-yard gain. And one can't forget Bijan Robinson's two one-handed grabs, one of which turned into a Falcons touchdown.


Everyone was involved in the pass game Sunday, and that's a point of pride for the Falcons.

"I think I enjoyed this one a lot just because everybody on the offense got to do something big," Robinson said postgame. "We utilized Jonnu, Kyle, obviously Drake, Mack (Hollins). It wasn't like you got to focus on a couple people. You had to focus on everybody to beat us."

That last sentence from Robinson isn't a new idea. It's one the Falcons had been saying all offseason. It goes along with Arthur Smith's brand of "positionless football." It's what the Falcons want to be, but have struggled to be, in the first four games of the season. In the last two losses specifically, when the run game has fizzled, the pass game couldn't come alive to make up for it. It's something the Texans took notice of.

"They got wide receivers if they use them," Texans safety Jimmie Ward said via a clip from KPRC 2 Houston's Chancellor Johnson in the week leading up to the Week 5 matchup. "I don't think they're trying to pass the ball. They're trying to out-physical teams, and run the ball. We're going to have a tough task at hand in stopping them from running the ball.

"When I was on (the San Francisco 49ers), I didn't play last year, but I saw what they did to San Fran last year. San Fran went down there and they ran the ball and beat them up pretty bad. I already know they're going to stick to the run for sure."

As I wrote in Saturday's five things to watch installment, I don't necessarily think this was a slight at Ridder by Ward. I truly think it aligns with how the rest of the league views the Falcons.

Ridder was asked about this comment from Ward after the game Sunday. He said he didn't see it. Whether he did or didn't is a moot point, though, because he answered the comment with his performance in the game itself.

"They are a run-first team, and we held them to under 100-rushing yards. We did what we needed to do, but they had a lot of good plays dialed up, like the boots and the strike routes," Ward said after the game. "The coach did a nice job, and the quarterback did a nice job."

And that's the difference in the Falcons last two losses and this win: When the run game wasn't working, they had the pass game to fall back on for production. It's what solidified them in the final drive, too, with Ridder going 5-for-5 through the air to get the Falcons into field goal range.

In the end, everyone was involved. It wasn't just wide receivers or tight ends or running backs... or fullbacks. (Jimmie Ward probably wasn't thinking too much about Keith Smith in the week leading up to the game).

It was everyone, and that will mean a lot to any Falcons success moving forward.

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

Related Content