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Calvin Ridley Stepping Up As Falcons' Top WR

Calvin Ridley filling role once held by Julio Jones in Atlanta's passing attack

Just before it all went wrong, Calvin Ridley did something right. All it took was a third quarter touchdown to ease the concerns of Atlanta Falcons fans. 

Yes, he's not Julio Jones 2.0. That doesn't mean Ridley can't be the new WR1. 

Ridley's afternoon in a 48-25 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was memorable in a limited, but promising capacity. Sure, he led the way with a team-high seven catches for 63 yards, but in the red zone he became essential. 

On fourth down, quarterback Matt Ryan needed to score. If the Falcons settled for a field goal, they'd be settling for mediocrity. Not the kind of statement to make this early in the season. 

Over the years, Ryan trusted Jones as his go-to. Jones is long gone, with Ridley taking that spot. So when Ridley hauled in the 3-yard touchdown, momentum swung back to Atlanta. 

READ MORE: It Starts in the Trenches: Five Observations Falcons vs. Buccaneers

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On the ensuing drive, do-it-all weapon Cordarrelle Patterson scored on a 7-yard touchdown run and the Falcons were suddenly down just 28-25. 

Those were happier times. Two interceptions returned for touchdown by Bucs safety Mike Edwards closed any door that may have cracked open for Atlanta to make a comeback. 

At least Ridley proved his worth as the new top receiver in Atlanta. 

Over the past three seasons, it was Ridley's route-running and sure-fire hands that made him Robin to Jones' Batman. The size, speed and big-time playmaking skills made Jones a star in his 10 seasons with the Dirty Birds. 

Perhaps, it's Ridley's turn to take on that mantle. His running mate and second option, tight end Kyle Pitts, lived up to status as a top-five selection by leading Atlanta with 73 yards on five catches.

READ MORE: Falcons vs. Buccaneers 48-25 Recap and Highlights

The Falcons are 0-2 to begin the Arthur Smith era. While the rebuild is underway, at least fans of the franchise will have Ridley to cheer for throughout the long season.