Bird Talk: Falcons Address London Loss, Look Ahead to Texans

Coach Smith Looks at Sunday

Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, quarterback Desmond Ridder, and others in Flowery Branch once again found themselves at the receiving end of questions about their loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday and what they are doing to avoid a similar fate to the Houston Texans at home in the Benz this Sunday.Β 

The first question on their weekly Wednesday press conference was about the appearance in Falcons practice of wide receiver Frank Darby, who is now on the Falcons’ practice squad. Smith said his being on the team now is “like taking three shots of expresso.” He said it would be good to have Darby back in the fold.

He said that the Falcons are not taking the visiting Houston Texans lightly, especially when it comes to scoring early points against them. “We’ve got a good young team coming in here. It’s one, two in a row that have been able to jump up and get a lead the last two weeks and they’re playing a lot of energy and a lot of confidence so it’ll be a great challenge for us.” Smith said the team is excited about being back before the home crowd.

Coach Smith reminded the press on hand that the loss was not just about one man on the team, referring to Ridder. “It’s not like it’s the only issue,” he said about perceptions that Ridder is the issue troubling the Falcons. Coach Smith stated that the Falcons’ problems are a collective one involving the teams’ offense.Β 

Coach Smith admitted that the team is somewhat impacted morale-wise due to the two-game losing streak, but there is “great energy”, he said. “It’s not kumbaya, like everything’s okay. It’s here are our issues, here’s [what] we need to fix.” He added that the Falcons have “the right guys” and that opinions about Ridder will change if he has a good game this Sunday.

On the Texans starting quarterback C. J. Stroud: “Good thing he’s in the AFC South,” he said. “[The] guy’s a good player and he’s shown it so far and it’s our job to go stop him and not make him a good player on Sunday.”

Desmond Ridder Not “Playing in Fear”

Desmond Ridder then came in to take questions. First up: Why is it that the Falcons are starting so slow lately? “It goes down to just a few simple things,” he said. It’s an inch or guy away from a play breaking or busting from us. Being able to carry that momentum and keep the drive going. A missed block, a misread, a bad throw, it is keeping us from keeping that momentum going so for us it’s about executing.”

Ridder never considered that Coach Smith might pull him from the game. “That’s playing in fear,” he said. “That’s not something I do or advise anybody to do.” Ridder stated that he had been examining his performance on video, watching the London game twice on the flight back to Atlanta.

Ridder got support from teammate Bijan Robinson. “I am with you no matter what. God’s got us.” he quoted Robinson saying to him after the game.

A lot of attention was paid to an interaction between Ridder and teammate Mack Hollins, who appeared to rebuff him after a costly play error. Ridder said Hollins, disgusted because of the breakdown in the level of the team’s playing, “let his emotions out.” He said the video “…makes it look like it was directed toward me. It was directed toward me, toward the offense, toward everyone. We know we weren’t playing the way we were supposed to be playing and that makes a lot of people mad.”

How did Ridder assess Kyle Pitts‘ performance: “I can’t tell you how Kyle feels because I’m not Kyle PItts, so you know for me I see him coming out here every single day, putting in the work.”

Catching up with Okudah, Keeping the Defense Ready

Falcons assistant head coach Jerry Gray provided an update on the recovering Jeff Okudah. He said that Okudah is getting himself back in football shape. He emphasized that he and defensive coach Ryan Nielsen want to give every player who’s able to do so the ability to play. Gray added that the defense needs to keep practicing and tackling hard because the offense will need defensive backup to make plays when the moment calls for it.

New Falcon In the House

Falcons content producer Tori McElhaney reported that the team has signed defensive lineman Eli Ankou to the 53-man roster. He comes to Atlanta from the Buffalo Bills practice squad. He originally signed with the Falcons in a rookie minicamp tryout, with no success. He did join the Falcons at the end of 22’s training camp, where he played in the active roster for two games.

Josh Ali (WR) is headed to the injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury that kept him out of London.