Falcons turning to QB Taylor Heinicke after loss to Panthers

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons are once again making a quarterback switch.

Taylor Heinicke is listed to start Sunday against Indianapolis, the team announced Tuesday, replacing Desmond Ridder for the second time this season.

Going back and forth is not something Falcons coach Arthur Smith wanted to do, saying multiple times that he didn’t want to go on a quarterback carousel. But he talked about the possibility Monday when he discussed potentially making a switch at the position again.

“That’s usually not a great situation to have,” Smith said. “You want to be fair and objective and obviously give people an opportunity. It was a belief in him, no matter what happens. It doesn’t mean anybody’s career is over, but we have to do what’s best for this team right now.”

Ridder again made an error at a critical time, throwing an interception in the red zone on Atlanta’s final drive that eventually led to Carolina’s game-winning score. It was Ridder’s sixth red zone turnover of the season, the most in the NFL.

Ridder completed 63.3% of his passes this season for 2,528 yards, 10 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 11 fumbles. He also ran the ball 51 times for 193 yards and five touchdowns.

Smith had gone with Ridder to start the season before replacing him after seven turnovers over three games in October. Heinicke started losses against Minnesota and Arizona, and this season has completed 55.4% of his passes for 498 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Heinicke is 12-14-1 as a starter. For his career, he has completed 63.2% of his passes for 6,243 yards, 37 touchdowns and 25 interceptions with Washington, Atlanta, Carolina and Houston.

The Falcons are making the change two days after Smith said they would once again be evaluating everything following Atlanta’s 9-7 loss to Carolina, as the franchise scored one touchdown against the worst team in the NFL.

It was the second straight loss for Atlanta, taking the Falcons from first place in the NFC South and in control of their playoff fate to 6-8 and needing to win games plus get help to make the playoffs, starting Sunday against the Colts.


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