Through 12 weeks of the NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons are sitting atop the NFC South standings with a road trip against the offensively-challenged New York Jets up next.
Atlanta (5-6, 3-0 NFC South) pulled away from the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter to earn a 24-15 victory over its division rival behind a critical drive orchestrated by Desmond Ridder, a rushing attack that piled up a season-high 228 yards and an opportunistic defense headlined by Jessie Bates III.
But Ridder also tossed two interceptions in his first game back as the starting quarterback, and head coach Arthur Smith is wary of his offense’s consistency ahead of Atlanta’s clash with one of the league’s most talented defenses.
“We’re about to go play a really good defense in New York so (the offense) better be ready to go,” Smith said. “They’ve got good players so we’ve got to do it on a consistent level. I thought the offensive line played the best game since I’ve been here (against New Orleans). We’ve invested heavily in those guys and we’ve just got to stick with our way of doing things.”
Ridder now has eight interceptions on the year after New Orleans defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was responsible for both interceptions Sunday. The first pick came at the Saints’ 1-yard line on first-and-goal with 34 seconds to go in the opening half — and the Falcons up 14-9.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” Smith said. “When we gave them the one at the 1, there were a couple of things going on there. But we’ve got to do a better job. When you turn the ball over, it makes life hard on yourselves. Had a chance to double ’em up there or get three before half.”
The second pick came with Atlanta on the move facing a first-and-10 at New Orleans’ 47-yard line when Ridder attempted to hit Van Jefferson on a deep ball down the left sideline.
But after a big hit by Bates forced Taysom Hill to fumble inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line, Ridder put Atlanta up 21-12 by leading his team on a nine-play, 95-yard scoring drive, capped by a 26-yard touchdown reception by Bijan Robinson.
The methodical scoring march, which was sparked by a 29-yard pass to Drake London on third-and-6 with less than 11 minutes to play, proved that Ridder has the makeup to lead his team to wins.
“What you like about him is the way he came back,” Smith said. “He doesn’t flinch. He’s resilient and we’ll keep working.”
Ridder and the Falcons’ offense face a stiff challenge squaring off against a Jets (4-7) defense that ranks right behind Atlanta at 14th in yards allowed per game (323.5) but is 31st in run defense (140.3 yards per game).
–Bates had 12 tackles, a pick-6 and a forced fumble in the win over the Saints. He is tied for third in the league with four interceptions and is second in forced fumbles (three).
–The Falcons are averaging 139.3 yards per game on the ground, good for fifth in the league.
–Field Level Media
Capped by Zach Hicks’ three free throws with 4.2 seconds left, Penn State scored the final eight points in the last 35 seconds to pull off a 90-89 Big Ten…
Auston Matthews scored twice, surpassing the 50-goal mark, as the Toronto Maple Leafs stretched their win streak to a season-best five games with a 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes…
Charlie McAvoy scored the overtime winning goal to cap a two-point performance and the visiting Boston Bruins recovered from blowing a three-goal lead to beat the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in…
NHL roundup: Auston Matthews scores Nos. 50, 51
Bruins recover to edge Oilers 6-5 in overtime
Kings, Pierre-Luc Dubois look to stay hot vs. Predators
Oregon well aware winning at Stanford won’t be easy