In a closely fought contest at Fed Ex Field in Washington, the Atlanta Falcons came out on top as they narrowly defeated the Washington Redskins 24-17 in a game that was dominated by defense.
The early story of this game was the lack of scoring. The two teams were the third and fourth highest scorers in the NFL through 4 weeks and yet the first quarter went by without a score as it was the defense of both teams that stepped up. When the points finally did come, it was still about the defense. Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan came up with an interception and took it 28 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Both teams had their opportunities in the second quarter. Billy Cundiff’s woes continued as he misfired from 31 yards out making him 1 for 5 since the beginning of week 4. The star for Washington was rookie RB Alfred Morris who was steady all day and ended up with 19 carries for 115 yards while RG3 did not have a single rushing attempt in the first half. The Falcons came close to a big score as TE Tony Gonzalez hauled in a long pass from Matt Ryan but he was judged to be just short. He got his score however as Ryan looked Gonzo’s way at the goal-line and the veteran converted a score to make it 7-7 at the half.
Come the second half and the complexion of the game changed dramatically. The Redskins would take the lead on a short field goal from Cundiff as Washington sought to get Robert Griffin III more involved. This would turn out to be a gross miscalculation as RG3 was knocked out of the game following a hit to the head/neck area by Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon – you can see a video of the hit here. He was deemed questionable to return but never did with head coach Mike Shanahan declaring after the game the Griffin had a “mild” concussion.
It was at this point that Matt Ryan really turned it on as he surely realised that the loss of the Redskins star player was the opportunity he and Atlanta had been waiting for. Early in the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan pounced as he led a scoring drive for Atlanta that ended with a beautiful 18 yard pass to Julio Jones. Enter rookie QB Kirk Cousins who the Redskins had selected in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft. Now you can imagine that most expected Washington to lay down to the perfect Falcons at this point. What happened next literally shook Fed Ex Field as Cousins found veteran WR Santana Moss wide open in the middle of the field and the two connected for a stunning 77 yard touchdown to put the Redskins ahead once again 17-14.
This didn’t phase Matt Ryan who showed why the Atlanta fans call him “Matty Ice” with a clinical display of passing to move his team within scoring distance. At this point the Redskins defense fought to reassert themselves and in the end the Falcons had to settle for a 53 yard field goal to Mat Bryant. Following a tough stand by his defense resulting in a punt, Matt Ryan consequently seized the advantage and drove Atlanta down the field with brutal efficiency. In a drive that took time off the clock, Atlanta marched through the tiring Redskins leading to a 13 yard rushing touchdown to Michael Turner who hadn’t had a very good day on the ground until that point.
Cometh the man, cometh the hour – and now was not the hour for Kirk Cousins to be the man. Next Redskins possession and Cousins showed his rookie rawness with a bad interception taken by CB Dunta Robinson. All looked lost for Washington but they still had three timeouts just after the two minute warning and the defense gave them every chance as they forced a three and out from Atlanta with plenty of time on the clock thanks to the timeouts used. Unfortunately for Washington, Cousins just wasn’t up to the task as he threw another poor pass that was intercepted by Falcons safety Thomas Decoud and clinched the victory for the now 5-0 Atlanta Falcons 24-17.
Next week the Washington Redskins continue their home-stand as they host the Minnesota Vikings while the Atlanta Falcons will seek to stay perfect at home in the Georgia Dome against the struggling Oakland Raiders.