ATLANTA (AP) — Desmond Ridder and all those young offensive weapons gave a glimpse of what they they can do for the Atlanta Falcons.
A bunch of yellow flags slowed their progress.
Ridder led an impressive but penalty-plagued drive in his preseason debut, and the Falcons settled for a field goal with 2 seconds left for a 13-13 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals on Friday night.
After sitting the starters last week in a 19-3 victory at Miami, the Falcons (1-0-1) went with the No. 1s for their opening possession.
That included their last three first-round picks: tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson.
Ridder, heading into his first full season as the starting quarterback, got all of them involved.
London hauled in two passes for 33 yards. Robinson carried four times for 20 yards and snared a 6-yard completion. Pitts, coming back from a knee injury, made a one-handed grab.
“They’ve put playmakers around me,” Ridder said. “It’s up to me to let them go play. I put the ball in their hands.”
Ridder completed 7 of 9 passes for 80 yards and also broke off a 7-yard run before the drive ended with an interception off a deflected pass. Cornerback Mike Hilton appeared to make contact with intended receiver Scotty Miller before the throw arrived, but no flag was thrown. The ball bounced into the air and was picked off by defensive end Joseph Ossai.
“The ref didn’t make the call,” Ridder said. “That’s something I’ve got to live with.”
There were plenty of other calls. The Falcons were flagged for holding on the opening kickoff return and four more penalties on the first possession, including two holding calls on guard Chris Lindstrom.
“Up 10, back 5,” Ridder said. “That’s not the most efficient way to the end zone. It’s about cleaning that up.”
Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor was pleased with his defense for stopping the Falcons when the first-teamers were on the field. Ridder and Co. played only that first series before calling it a night.
“It was good for them in game-type conditions, against a starting offense, having their backs against the wall a little bit, and find a way to make a play,” Taylor said.
Despite the penalties and the pick, it was a promising start to 2023 for the young quarterback who carries Atlanta’s hopes of breaking a streak of five straight losing seasons.
Ridder started four games as a rookie at the end of last season, leading the Falcons to a 2-2 record and persuading coach Arthur Smith that he can handle the job.
After a snoozer of a game, the final minute provided some dramatics in a largely empty stadium, with a bunch of backups and roster hopefuls on the field.
Jake Browning guided an 80-yard drive to that put the Bengals (0-1-1) ahead 13-10 with 50 seconds remaining. He completed four passes for 42 yards and scrambled twice for another 33 yards, setting up Chase Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds remaining.
But Atlanta third-stringer Logan Woodside connected on three straight passes for 53 yards before a third-down throw in the end zone was batted down. To a smattering of boos, the Falcons sent out Younghoe Koo for the tying 45-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.
“Obviously, we’re not playing for a tie,” Smith said. “We wanted a TD there. But we were able to put Koo out there and he made a pressure kick.”
The Bengals went with Trevor Siemian in the first half while franchise quarterback Joe Burrow continues his recovery from a calf injury. Burrow came up hobbling after scrambling at a training camp practice on July 27.
Siemian was 7 of 14 for 62 yards, guiding the Bengals into position for Eva McPherson’s 50-yard field goal on the final play of the first half that sent the teams to the locker room tied at 3.
Taylor Heinicke, the former Washington starter who signed in free agency to back up Ridder, was 13 of 21 for 162 yards and hooked up with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on a 28-yard completion that up the Falcons’ only touchdown. Carlos Washington Jr. took it in from the 1.
Taylor’s challenge game is still working out the preseason kinks.
The Bengals coach challenged two calls in the first half — only to lose a pair of timeouts when both rulings were upheld.
London’s 21-yard reception was allowed to stand for the Falcons, while a video review confirmed that Cincinnati’s Kwamie Lassiter didn’t get both feet down on a throw along the sideline.
Falcons safety DeMarcco Hellams, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama, had an interception for the second week in a row.
“He shows up when the lights are on,” Smith said. “That’s what he did at Alabama. He can find the football.”
LOTS OF YELLOW
The Falcons finished with 13 penalties for 102 yards, while the Bengals were flagged seven times for 55 yards.
Atlanta WR KhaDarel Hodge went down in the first half with a left ankle injury and didn’t return. … Another Falcons receiver, Penny Hart, looked groggy after being sandwiched between two defenders attempting to make a fourth-down catch.
Bengals: Head to Washington to face the Commanders in their final preseason game Aug. 26.
Falcons: Host the Pittsburgh Steelers in their preseason finale next Thursday night.
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