Desmond Ridder answers critics, Younghoe Koo kicks last-second field goal, Falcons edge Texans 21-19

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By CHARLES ODUM | AP Sports Writer

Atlanta Falcons place-kicker Younghoe Koo (6) kicks the game winning field goal in the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Atlanta, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. (Mike Stewart/AP Photo)

ATLANTA (AP) — Desmond Ridder passed and ran for touchdowns, providing an answer to those who had called for him to be benched, Younghoe Koo kicked a go-ahead 37-yard field goal as time expired, and the Atlanta Falcons snapped a two-game skid by beating the Houston Texans 21-19 on Sunday.

Ridder’s 6-yard TD pass to rookie running back Bijan Robinson and 2-point pass to Tyler Allgeier gave the Falcons (3-2) a 15-12 lead early in the fourth quarter. Robinson reached back to catch the ball against his hip before running through the middle of the Houston defense into the end zone.

Houston rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud answered with an 18-yard scoring pass to tight end Dalton Schultz, giving the Texans a 19-18 lead with 1:49 remaining. Schultz found an opening in the middle of the end zone behind safety Jessie Bates.

The biggest gain on Atlanta’s decisive field-goal drive in the final minutes was Ridder’s 23-yard pass to Drake London.

Stroud set an NFL record by starting his career with 177 pass attempts without an interception. He broke the record previously held by Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott. Stroud had already set the NFL record for rookies a week earlier when he reached 151 attempts without an interception.

Stroud completed 20 of 35 passes for 249 yards and a score.

Ridder completed 28 of 37 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown. He had a 7-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

Ridder, in his first full season as a starter, faced increased criticism after he had three turnovers, including a pick-6, in last week’s 23-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) looks to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. (John Bazemore/AP Photo)

His bounce-back performance ended a two-game winning streak for Houston (2-3).

Before Stroud’s scoring pass to Schultz, the Texans had to settle for four field goals by Kaʻimi Fairbairn, including a 28-yarder with 3 seconds remaining in the first half for a 9-7 lead.

A personal foul penalty on Falcons center Drew Dalman following a pass to Kyle Pitts late in the first half proved crucial. The 15-yard penalty following the short third-down catch moved the Falcons back from the Houston 29 to the 44, taking Atlanta out of field goal position.

The penalty also set up a 10-play, 79-yard field goal drive that gave the Texans the lead. Fairbairn added a 42-yarder in the third quarter to increase the lead to 12-7.

The Falcons overcame two third-quarter turnovers. Robinson’s fumble, forced by Khalil Davis and recovered by Dylan Horton, set up Fairbairn’s fourth field goal.

The Falcons moved inside the Houston 20 later in the third when Jonnu Smith fumbled when hit by Grayland Arnold. Jalen Pitre recovered for the Texans at the 8-yard line and returned the ball 22 yards.

Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) is hit by Houston Texans safety Jalen Pitre (5) in the first half of an NFL football game in Atlanta, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. (Mike Stewart/AP Photo)

Texans: WR Tank Dell did not return after he was evaluated for a concussion following a catch with 29 seconds remaining in the first half. … WR Robert Woods (ribs) left the game in the third quarter and was questionable to return.

Falcons: RT Kaleb McGary suffered a knee injury in the third quarter. … CB A.J. Terrell was cleared after being evaluated for a potential head injury late in the first half. … RB Cordarrelle Patterson (thigh) had a 7-yard catch, his first of the season after missing the first three games. He also lined up for a kickoff return as another sign he is healthy enough to assume his multi-purpose role.


Texans: Host another NFC South foe, New Orleans, next Sunday.

Falcons: Host Washington next Sunday. The Commanders lead the series 17-10-1, including a 19-13 win on Nov. 27, 2022.