ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith said his decision to start Taylor Heinicke at quarterback in place of Desmond Ridder this week was not a permanent one.
After seeing Heinicke come up short in a 31-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, he still has not locked himself into a long-time starter at quarterback.
Smith liked some of what he saw of the veteran, who finished 21 for 38 for 268 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he was not ready after the loss to declare him the full-time starter.
“He did turn the ball over, but I thought he operated on third down pretty well,” Smith said. “We'll huddle up and evaluate. I thought he gave us some chances.”
Trailing 24-21 with 9:06 to play, Heinicke drove the Falcons 79 yards for a touchdown that gave Atlanta the lead back with 2:08 to play. The drive included a critical 13-yard scramble by Heinicke on third-and-9 that kept the drive alive. Heinicke finished with 20 rushing yards on three carries and was sacked once.
Heinicke said he was pleased about his game, but wishes he had a few plays back, including a third-quarter interception that led to the Vikings taking the lead.
“I don't think that was a relationship-type of deal (with the receivers),” Heinicke said. “That was just a bad throw.”
Ridder started the first eight games of the season for the Falcons, but was replaced at halftime last week in a 28-23 loss to the Titans. The Falcons scored 20 points in the second half against the Titans with Heinicke leading the offense.
Smith would not commit to a quarterback beyond having Heinicke start against the Vikings, and Heinicke said he isn't focused on who will start next week when the Falcons go to Arizona to face the Cardinals.
“I’m not really thinking about that right now. I’m still (upset) about the loss,” Heinicke said. “We will come in tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday and see what happens, but just still thinking about the game right now.”
On the plus side, Heinicke executed a quick screen pass to tight end Jonnu Smith, who broke it for a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter. And the late touchdown drive put the Falcons in position to get over the .500 mark.
The Falcons had to settle for field goals on their first two trips to the red zone, including one drive that started at the Vikings 1-yard-line following Joshua Dobbs' fumble. A penalty and a few failed run plays led to a 23-yard field goal.
“You can't sugarcoat it or make excuses,” Smith said. “We had our chances and didn't get it done.”
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