Falcons turn to Ridder as starting quarterback

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The Atlanta Falcons are returning from their bye with a new starting quarterback.

Head coach Arthur Smith announced Monday that rookie Desmond Ridder will take over the starting duties from Marcus Mariota for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

“I did make a switch at quarterback. Desmond Ridder will be the starter. It’s a performance-based decision,” he said in a press conference.

The move had been expected after it was reported last week that Ridder would be named the starter.

A third-round pick in April’s draft, Ridder has yet to take an offensive snap in the regular season after throwing for 10,239 yards with 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in his four-year collegiate career at Cincinnati.

He takes over an offense that is in need of a jolt, with Atlanta having lost four of five, averaging 15.3 points in those defeats.

Despite their recent slide to drop to 5-8, the Falcons are only a game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the lowly NFC South, so a path to the playoffs with Ridder at QB is not out of the question.

Ridder will foreseeably be the Falcons’ starter for the remainder of the season, as Smith said Mariota will likely be placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Mariota was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week following his performance in the Falcons’ 28-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6, but he’s struggled to generate much offense over the last month.

In Atlanta’s last five games, Mariota was averaging just 157.4 passing yards with five touchdown passes and three interceptions for an 81.6 rating.

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