Falcons rally for tough win in Washington
The Falcons managed a come from behind win over the Washington Redskins by a score of 24-17. It’s the second consecutive week in which the Falcons found themselves down early, but managed to pull out a victory. They push their record to 5-0, which is the best start in franchise history.
Matt Ryan was up and down early in the game, but finished completing 34 of 52 passes for 345 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. His completions and attempts matches career highs in both categories he set last December against the New Orleans Saints. On the ground, Michael Turner led rushers with 67 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez led receivers with 13 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones also added a score, catching 10 passes for 94 yards. Roddy White had 4 catches for 68 yards, while Harry Douglas made his name known with a pair of receptions for 34 yards. Matt Bryant made a 53-yard attempt, the longest in his tenure as a Falcon. Matt Bosher punted 6 times for an average of 48.8 yards with one placed inside the 20-yard line. In the return game, Jacquizz Rodgers returned a pair of kickoffs for 36 yards, and Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for only 2 yards total. The Falcons converted 9 of 17 third downs, and totaled 421 yards on offense. They also overwhelmed the Redskins on time of possession with 37 minutes to Washington’s 23, but could not quite finish many of their drives early to put points on the board.
Defensively, the Falcons were tough, limiting the Redskins from converting on only 1 of 9 third down attempts. Most of the Redskins offensive success came on the ground, as they allowed Alfred Morris to rush for 115 yards. But overall, they allowed 316 total yards. The defense was able to force two late interceptions which sealed the win for them. Sean Weatherspoon led defenders with 11 tackles. He also added a sack, and put a hit on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin that knocked him out of the game midway through the third quarter. John Abraham (1 pass defended, 1 quarterback hit); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Kroy Biermann (6 tackles, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 interception); William Moore (8 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (4 tackles); and Dunta Robinson (6 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception) all had notable games.
The game got off to a mixed start for the Falcons. Jacquizz Rodgers returned the opening kickoff 47 yards to midfield, but a holding penalty on Robert James called the play back where it started at Atlanta’s own 16-yard line. The Falcons were able to move the ball on their opening drive with Ryan finding Julio Jones and Roddy White to convert a pair of third downs as they moved the ball into Redskin territory. But a false start penalty on Tony Gonzalez put the Falcons in a 3rd & 13, and the Falcons did not convert forcing the first of Bosher’s half dozen punts. The defense got early pressure on Robert Griffin, as Robinson and Babineaux split a sack on a blitz on the fourth play of that drive. The team was able to get off the field on third down and after Sav Rocca’s punt, the Falcons took over on their own 15. But neither offense was able to take advantage, as the Falcons and Redskins swapped three-and-outs. On the next Falcon drive, Ryan’s pass to Julio Jones on a screen wound up a yard shy of the first down marker on 3rd & 3 and the team was forced to punt for the third time near midfield. The Redskins took over with the second quarter beginning. The Redskins were able to move the ball into Falcon territory on the ensuing drive, but Sean Weatherspoon stopped Fred Davis shy of the first down on 3rd & 8 and they were forced to punt from the Falcons 46-yard line. Ryan started to find Tony Gonzalez on the next drive, hitting him for a pair of 11-yard gains to start and move the ball. But on 3rd & 5, Ryan Kerrigan stepped in front of a screen to Harry Douglas and ran it back 38 yards for a pick six to put the Redskins on the board first. Washington took a 7-0 lead with 10:11 remaining in the first half. With the Falcons driving, they were able to get the ball to Washington’s 30-yard line after a 9-play, 50-yard drive. But on the tenth play, Ryan bobbled the snap and Redskins linebacker Perry Riley fell on the ball for the second turnover of the game. Alfred Morris burst for a big 29-yard gain and held get the Redskins in the redzone for the first time. But on a 3rd & 2 from the Falcons 11-yard line, Kroy Biermann was able to stuff Morris for a two-yard loss to force a Redskin field goal. Billy Cundiff missed a 31-yard chip shot to prevent the Redskins from capitalizing on the Falcons turnover. The Falcons took over at their own 21-yard line with 2:16 left in the half after the Cundiff miss. On the first play of the drive, Ryan hit White for a 20-yard gain. He then followed it up with three straight completions to Harry Douglas for 15 yards, and a pair to Julio Jones for a combined 10 yards. With the ball now at the Redskins 29-yard line, Ryan was able to complete 1 of his next 2 passes to Julio Jones for 7 yards. He then hit Gonzalez over the middle for a 21-yard gain that put the ball down at the 1. The Redskins jumped offsides on the ensuing play. But then Ryan rolled right and found Tony Gonzalez for a touchdown on the next play, as Gonzo made an excellent leaping grab over Lorenzo Alexander. The Redskins got one more chance with 30 seconds left in the half, but opted to run three straight times to keep the game tied 7-7 at halftime.
After the Falcon defense stalled the Redskins on a six-play drive to start the second half, Rocca nailed a punt that was down at the Falcons 2-yard line. The Falcons had no success moving the ball with a three-and-out and Bosher’s punt gave the Redskins good field position at their own 48-yard line. Alfred Morris’s 13-yard run on the fourth play of the drive was able to get the ball to the Falcons 9-yard line. Griffin scrambled on a 3rd & 3 from the Falcons 3-yard line, where he was hit by Weatherspoon as he was trying to slide knocking him out of the game. Cundiff trotted on the field to redeem himself with a 23-yard field goal to push Washington’s lead to 10-7 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. On 3rd & 10, Ryan found White for a 17-yard completion on the ensuing drive. On their next third down attempt three plays later, Ryan scrambled 6 yards for a first down. But their next third down attempt was stuffed shy on a Jacquizz Rodgers run, and Bosher punted again. With backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in the game, the Falcons defense forced a three-and-out thanks to pressure from John Abraham. The Falcons took over at midfield with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. White had another big catch for 19 yards, followed by some runs. On the sixth play of the drive, Ryan found Jones in the endzone on an 18-yard scoring play. Jones made an excellent adjustment to the high throw, managing to tap his toes as he was going out of bounds for the score. The Falcons took their first lead of the game 14-10, now with 13:23 left in the fourth quarter. However, the Redskins responded quickly. On the third play, Cousins found a wide open Santana Moss over the middle on a broken coverage for a 77-yard score. The Redskins now held a three-point lead with 12:24 left in the game. Michael Turner got the drive going with a pair of runs for 12 yards. Then Ryan found Douglas deep on a 19-yard catch to get the ball into Redskin territory. However three plays later, Ryan was sacked to force a 3rd & 14. He could not hit Douglas and Bryant trotted out for a 53-yard field goal and nailed it right down the middle. The Falcons now tied the game 17-17 with 7:42 left in the game. The Falcons defense held the Redskins to a three-and-out and the offense took over again with 5:40 left in the game at their own 31-yard line. Ryan connected on all three of his pass attempts for 51 yards, including a 29-yard strike to Julio Jones which put the team in Redskin territory. Turner finished off the drive with a 13-yard run to push the Falcons lead to 7 points with 2:46 left in the game. Cousins hit Pierre Garcon on his first pass of the ensuing drive for 20 yards, but two plays later he was picked off by Dunta Robinson. Turner ran three straight times, gaining only four yards as Washington burned all three timeouts. They got another shot with 1:21, but Cousins’ pass was this time intercepted on Thomas DeCoud on the opening play. With no more timeouts, the Falcons knelt on the ball twice to end with a victory.
Next week the Falcons return home to the Georgia Dome where they face the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are coming off a bye. The Raiders are 0-2 on the road this year, and have lost six straight games in the Eastern timezone. Their last win on an east coast trip came in Pittsburgh in December 2009. The last time the Falcons and Raiders played resulted in a 24-0 beatdown by Atlanta in 2008. The Falcons have won six straight at home. The Raiders have not won the game after their bye since the 2002 season, notably the last season in which they sported a winning record as well.