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How will Atlanta Falcons move on offensively in Calvin Ridley’s absence?

ATLANTA – It came as a surprise. An hour-and-a-half before the Atlanta Falcons kicked off against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, one of their stars wasn’t going to play.

Calvin Ridley was inactive – missing his second game this season due to a personal issue.

Then, about four hours later, with the Falcons in the midst of losing to Carolina, the 26-year-old receiver released a statement on Twitter. He is stepping away from football to work on his mental wellbeing. For Ridley, you hope for the best in a difficult situation. pic.twitter.com/q7OOoAKkdV — CALVIN RIDLEY (@CalvinRidley1) October 31, 2021 For the Falcons, it leaves a big question for the foreseeable future: What will this team look like without Ridley on the field. If Sunday’s 19-13 loss to Carolina is part of an answer, it means Falcons head coach and offensive play-caller Arthur Smith have to figure some things out.

Fast.

This week could be tough to gauge, since the Falcons (3-4) didn’t learn until Sunday morning that Ridley would not be with the team. Smith wouldn’t say how much not having Ridley changed the game plan the team had – he figured Carolina might have changed some of its man-to-man assignments with Ridley out, but he didn’t indicate anything else changed. Follow the NFL all season long

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More NFL coverage » Except in reality it had to. Ridley, even in a somewhat down season, is a difference-maker. In the past four games he played, Ridley had been targeted a minimum of 10 times. Through Week 7, he still led Atlanta in targets (52), was tied for the team lead in receptions (31), was second in touchdowns (two) and third in yards (281). His presence on the field demands attention from opposing defenses, whether it’s a double-team or a top cornerback assigned to him.

“He’s a great player, and you try to utilize other guys when he’s not up,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We still have enough players. We trust the guys that are up on game day to go make plays, and unfortunately, we just fell a little bit short [Sunday].”

With Ridley out, the Panthers (4-4) seemed to focus on tight end Kyle Pitts , who had two catches for 13 yards on six targets. Pitts said that while his role didn’t change in the offense, he saw more people over the top of him Sunday – attention that may have gone to Ridley, had he been out there. Best of NFL Nation

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