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Falcons QB Taylor Heinicke replaces Desmond Ridder in second half of loss vs. Titans

Desmond Ridder went to the sidelines to begin the second half while Taylor Heinicke took over at quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons in an eventual 28-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Head coach Arthur Smith replaced Ridder with Heinicke while trailing, 14-3. Ridder was evaluated for a concussion but was cleared. He began the second half with a ballcap on rather than a helmet, however.

The Falcons offense was listless in the opening half, compiling just 89 yards with Ridder having been sacked five times and losing a fumble -- his NFL-leading 12th giveaway. Ridder's turnovers have all come over his last seven starts. He was 8 of 12 for 71 yards through the first two quarters.

"With Des, he needed to get checked out," Smith said in his postgame news conference, explaining the process of Ridder staying sidelined. "So that's why Taylor's here. Taylor got in there and got going. And as the game went on, felt that was the best thing right then. Just the way that it had gone, and we're always going to be cautious and I'll be conservative."

Although Smith said the team has "a lot of confidence" in Ridder and that he was not taken out for performance issues. The offense did come alive under the second-year QB's understudy, though.

Upon entering the game, Heinicke provided Atlanta's offense with greater efficiency and a closer shot at winning. He led the Falcons on two field-goal drives in the third quarter and two 75-yard touchdown drives in the fourth, putting points on the board in four of his six possessions while going 12 of 21 for 175 yards and a TD throw.

It was a better effort from Smith's bunch, but Tennessee's offense scored enough and the defense delivered a fourth-down stop with 1:30 remaining to maintain the lead the Titans had built against Ridder for the win.

Asked about the team's starter moving forward, Smith twice clarified that "we just finished this game."

"We got a lot of thing we've got to go back and look at," he continued. "I'm going to listen to the medical experts. See how this week goes."

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