The Atlanta Falcons Beat the Washington Redskins: Five Reasons Why
Robert Griffin III is knocked out of the game.
Washington Redskins’ fans across the world collectively gasped when quarterback Robert Griffin III was hit by Atlanta Falcons’ linebacker Sean Witherspoon during Atlanta’s 24-17 Week Five victory. While many Redskins’ fans get excited when Griffin III bolts from the pocket, the drawbacks from the running style of play the quarterback dubbed “RG3” can sometimes rear its ugly head.
Griffin III running from the pocket opens himself up to injury if he doesn’t slide in an effort to protect himself. Witherspoon legally hit Griffin III, injuring him. Griffin III left the game with a concussion, and did not return.
Control of the Washington offense was given to Griffin III’s backup, fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins. The offense had to immediately adjust to Cousins, who had yet to take a snap in an NFL game until Griffin III’s injury in the third quarter. When Griffin III left the game, it allowed Atlanta to focus its attention towards Redskins’ running back Alfred Morris. While Morris did gain over 100 yards rushing for the second consecutive week, asking him to carry the offensive burden for Washington is a tough assignment.
Griffin III’s absence seemed to drain the excitement out of the Redskins and their fans. While Cousins did throw a touchdown pass in his NFL debut, asking him to lead Washington to victory in relief duty of one of the NFL’s most dynamic players is asking a lot. Griffin III is a special player that gives Redskins’ fans a source of excitement. They hope that excitement will return again soon with the return of their franchise quarterback.
Matt Ryan shows why he’s called “Matty Ice.”
Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Plays like that can energize the opposing defense, as well as demoralize the victimized quarterback’s confidence. However, Ryan showed the form he displayed in leading Atlanta to a 13-3 record in 2010. The game never got out of control for Ryan, who has great offensive players like running back Michael Turner, as well as wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones at his disposal. After a slow offensive start, Ryan threw two touchdown passes to provide the margin of victory for Atlanta.
Tony Gonzales Continues To Discover the Fountain of Youth
Atlanta Falcons’ tight end Tony Gonzalez shows no signs of slowing down. He was the Falcons’ most productive receiver, catching 13 passes and scoring a touchdown. Gonzalez’ performance leaves him in the conversation when discussing the league’s top tight ends. While he doesn’t catch passes for long gains like the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, or the San Francisco 49ers’ Vernon Davis, Gonzalez’ contributions for Atlanta are equally important. His catches produce first downs, which keeps drives alive, and improves the Falcons’ record to a perfect 5-0. If Gonzalez continues to produce at this level, the Atlanta Falcons will have every reason to stake their claim as the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl next February in Indianapolis.
Washington Redskins’ defense shows inconsistency yet again.
Washington Redskins’ linebacker Ryan Kerrigan intercepted Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan, and returned the interception for a touchdown. On Atlanta’s next possession, Washington forced and recovered a fumble, continuing the big plays on defense that keep the Redskins competitive.
However, Washington’s defense continues a disturbing trend of giving up yardage at the most inopportune times. Atlanta recorded nine third down conversions, which kept Washington’s offense off the field. When Atlanta scores touchdowns or field goals, it forces the Redskins’ offense to do the same on their ensuing possession.
Another disturbing trend is the defense’s inability to hold fourth quarter leads. In three of Washington’s first five games, the defense has relinquished three fourth quarter leads, losing two of those games. It’s ironic that Washington has lost each game in 2012 that they have recorded a defensive touchdown. This startling statistic proves that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Atlanta Falcons’ defense continued to make big plays.
Rabid Washington Redskins’ fans might claim that the tackle that concussed Griffin III was an illegal hit. However, Griffin III failed to slide, giving Witherspoon the opportunity for a legal hit on the 2011 Heisman trophy winner. Once Griffin III was taken out of the game, never to return, the momentum shifted to the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
Yes, the Falcons did give up a long touchdown pass late in the game. But Atlanta eventually regained the lead late in the fourth quarter. And unlike the Redskins, the Falcons came up with timely defensive plays when they absolutely needed them. Those big plays were two interceptions late in the game, with Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins trying to drive Washington to the game tying score.
Billy Cundiff misses another close range field goal
Washington Redskins' placekicker Billy Cundiff continues to struggle with his field goal duties. He missed a 31 yard field goal in the second quarter. This came after Washington forced a Matt Ryan fumble. These are the types of miscues that an average team like the Redskins cannot afford to make. It was easy to disregard the fact that the Redskins came away with no points on the ensuing possession after Washington linebacker Perry Riley recovered Ryan's fumble. After all, the game was tied in the second quarter at the time of Cundiff's miss. Plus, the missed field goal did not have an effect on the game's final score.
However, Cundiff's inability to convert even the most elementary of field goal attempts should cause concern with Washington Redskins' fans. Teams must have confidence in their kickers, because the offense cannot continue to drive down the field, have the offense stall, and come away with no points. Cundiff's days in Washington should be numbered, if they aren't already.