The Atlanta Falcons are heading into their Week 9 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings coming off a loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 8. That loss dropped Atlanta to 4-4 on the season, but they are still tied for first place in the NFC South.
During their loss to the Titans, starting quarterback Desmond Ridder was taken out of the game and evaluated for a concussion. Despite being cleared to play, he remained on the sidelines as Taylor Heinicke took over at quarterback.
Following the game, Heinicke was insistent that this was still Ridder’s team and he would be the starting quarterback going forward. However, for at least one week, that will not be the case. On Wednesday, head coach Arthur Smith announced that Ridder is being benched and Heinicke will be starting against the Vikings.
Smith had it clear that the decision to start Heinicke is only for this week. He declined to answer multiple questions about who could be the starter beyond Week 9, as he was focused solely on the matchup against the Vikings.
“There’s a lot of variables,” Smith said. “Then really, considering the last 72 hours and kind of where we’re at right now, going into this week with Minnesota, getting ready to play the Vikings, obviously a really good team coming in here.
“Going with Taylor and that’s why he’s here right now.”
The Vikings are heading into Week 9 with a three-game winning streak. But, they have some quarterback issues of their own as Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles last week and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
For the Falcons, the decision to turn to Heinicke is one that has been a long time coming. Ridder has not played well this season and it felt like a matter of time until a change was made at the quarterback position.
On the season, Ridder has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,701 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions. Had the Falcons received better production under center, they would be running away with the NFC South this year.
In relief of Ridder last week, Heinicke completed 12-of-21 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown. He has plenty of experience as a starter in the last two seasons with the Washington Commanders, taking over for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2021 and Carson Wentz in 2022.
Heinicke is 12-12-1 in his career as a starter, capable of giving the Falcons the kind of spark they are looking for. However, expect them to be in the market for a long-term answer at the position this offseason with Ridder not panning out.