Despite the Washington Redskins’ (2-3) best efforts to minimize contact on Robert Griffin III, the rookie quarterback left the game in the second half after suffering a mild concussion and the Redskins fell 24-17 to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons (5-0).
In many ways, the Redskins-Falcons matchup Sunday afternoon defied expectations. The Redskins’ defense started out strong against Atlanta, limiting the team that arrived at FedEx Field averaging 31 points per game to just one touchdown in the first half. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan appeared off-balance as he missed tosses to wide-open receivers and threw an interception, which Ryan Kerrigan ran for 28 yards for the pick six, allowing Washington to take a 7-0 lead.
Alfred Morris was nearly unstoppable against the Falcons’ defense. By the end of the day, Morris tallied 115 rushing yards and caught for another 20 and the Redskins’ offense came alive against a team looking to start the season 5-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Despite Washington’s best efforts, things began to fall apart later in the second quarter. With just over two minutes left before the break, the Billy Cundiff drama continued – this time, on a 31-yard field goal which he launched wide right, marking his fifth miss of the season.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, Cundiff’s field goal percentage was not the team’s biggest worry by the end of the night. In just over a minute and a half after the attempt, the Matt Ryan of old returned in time to lead a 74-yard drive for a touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez to tie it 7-7.
With less than 10 minutes left in the quarter, Griffin put the Redskins in position to threaten. From Atlanta’s 39-yard line, Griffin passed to Fred Davis for a first down and followed up the play with a seven-yard rush, his only carry of the night. Alfred Morris ran for another 13 yards to bring the Redskins inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line, and Pierre Garcon made an acrobatic catch to bring the Redskins within five yards of a go-ahead touchdown.
On 3rd and goal, however, Griffin scrambled to avoid pressure in the pocket, but took a hard – yet, legal – hit from Sean Weatherspoon for the sack. Griffin was slow to get up after the play and he appeared shaken up on the sideline before making the slow walk to the Redskins’ locker room. After the game, the Redskins confirmed that Griffin suffered a mild concussion on the play.
The Redskins turned to Cundiff again who, luckily enough, found the center of the goal posts for a 23-yard field goal to put the Redskins back on top, 10-7.
Kirk Cousins came in to replace Griffin, but his first-ever drive in the NFL lasted just over a minute and the Redskins picked up a meager three yards in three plays. The Redskins’ Sav Rocca did little to help matter by punting out-of-bounds at the Redskins’ 47-yard line.
Ryan fired to Roddy White for 19 yards and to Jacquizz Rodgers for another eight, setting Ryan up for an 18-yard touchdown pass to none other than wide receiver Julio Jones to give the Falcons a 14-10 lead.
But, Cousins was ready to attack. After rushing for one yard from the Redskins’ own 22-yard line, Cousins rocketed a 77-yard pass to Santana Moss to secure his first career touchdown pass and put the Redskins back on top, 17-14.
As Cousins kept hope alive, however, the Redskins’ defense fell asleep. Falcons running back Michael Turner and Gonzalez plowed through the front line and, despite a sack and deflected pass each by Barry Cofield, the Falcons’ Matt Bryant kicked a picture-perfect 53-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 apiece.
Cousins just could not get things started again for the Redskins after the drive. After getting sacked by Kroy Biermann on 2nd and 4, Cousins tossed to Evan Royster for just seven yards, forcing Rocca to come on and punt for 42 yards.
Gonzalez and Turner continued to tear through the Redskins’ defense. Turner rushed for four yards and Ryan passed to Gonzalez for another 13 before picking up a yard himself. Then, Ryan fired to Jones for 27 yards to bring the Falcons into Washington territory and set Ryan up for a nine-yard toss to Jason Snelling and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Turner to put the Falcons on top 24-17 for the win. The loss by the Redskins marked their eighth consecutive defeat at FedEx Field.