Desmond Ridder struggles with accuracy but makes plays in Falcons’ preseason opener

The Falcons gave starting quarterback Marcus Mariota some brief work at the beginning of Friday night’s preseason opener in Detroit, but most of the game was the Desmond Ridder show.

Ridder, the rookie quarterback out of Cincinnati, delivered in the end, hitting Jared Bernhardt for a 21-yard game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute.

“At that point, you have to give someone a chance,” Ridder said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I saw it was a one-on-one matchup. I gave my guy Bernhardt a chance and he came down with it. It was huge play for us.”

It was an up-and-down game for Ridder, who also led a touchdown drive at the end of the first half but struggled with his accuracy, completing just 10 of his 22 passes for 103 yards, a paltry average of 4.7 yards per pass. Where Ridder was perhaps most impressive was in using his legs to avoid pressure: He was never sacked, and he ran the ball six times for 59 yards.

Mariota liked what he saw from his young backup.

“That was unbelievable,” Mariota said. “I thought Desmond had a great game. For a young guy, his first NFL shot, he made a bunch of plays. At the end of the game when you needed him most, he made a play.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith liked what he saw from both quarterbacks.

“I thought Marcus came out and he was sharp,” Smith said. “He really operated, I thought at a high level. It was good to see. To take a drive and go all the way down the field and score. . . . I was proud of Desmond. He came in there and you want to see how these guys handle adversity. It wasn’t perfect. There’s a lot to learn from, but he kept swinging.”

There’s no quarterback controversy in Atlanta, as Mariota is the unquestioned starter. But Ridder did enough to give Falcons fans some hope that he may some day be the team’s quarterback of the future.