Falcons vs. Redskins: Washington's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 5
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The Redskins failed to generate much pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who had ample time to throw for most of the game. And it was the Redskins' inability to stop Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, as well as surrendering the occasional big play, that eventually caused their downfall.
As usual, there are pluses and minuses to be taken from the game for the Redskins.
Here are the winners and losers.
Winner: Alfred Morris
Alfred Morris continued his incredible start to the season.
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Can anyone stop Alfred Morris?
He once again showed why he has been such a success story. He had nine carries for 86 yards in the first half, along with 20 yards through the air.
It's his complete refusal to go to the ground that has gained him such success. Atlanta had no answer for Morris, who hit the hole hard, usually taking defenders with him.
With useful blocking from the offensive line and wide receivers Joshua Morgan and Pierre Garcon, Morris waited patiently for running lanes to open, again drawing comparisons to Terrell Davis.
As Robert Griffin III struggled to move the ball through the air, Morris became the Redskins' go-to player.
Then after Griffin was injured and left the game, the Redskins were forced to rely on backup QB Kirk Cousins, as the Falcons shut down the run and dared the rookie to beat them with his arm.
Through it all, Morris still managed to put together his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. He continues to galvanize the Redskins' ground game.
Loser: Billy Cundiff
Billy Cundiff is a weak link in a Redskins team that has to take every chance it gets.
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It's impossible to overstate the importance of Billy Cundiff's missed 31-yard field goal. With a 10-0 lead, the momentum would have been with the Redskins.
Instead, Atlanta was let off the hook, and Matt Ryan was allowed to put the fumble that put the Redskins in position for the field-goal try out of mind as he came back on the field. Of course, he then led his team 79 yards in eight plays for a touchdown.
If a kicker is missing field goals from more than 50 yards, it's understandable. However, Cundiff has missed two from 31 yards and at one point had missed five of his last six.
In contrast, Matt Bryant of the Falcons made a 53-yard field goal to tie the game in the fourth quarter, which was his 22nd consecutive successful attempt.
Even though the game was decided by more than a missed kick, kicking is all about the numbers and Cundiff's numbers betray him. His misses at crucial times have cost the Redskins dearly.
It's time to find a new kicker.
Loser: Robert Griffin III
Griffin struggled with his throws this week, throwing behind his receivers on multiple occasions.
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It may be a little unfair to put Griffin on this list since he didn't complete the game, but Sunday was the first time he was made to look like a rookie.
In fairness to the Falcons, they had a good game plan for Griffin and stuck to it. They brought consistent pressure on the pocket, as well as preventing the roll-out.
Tyler Polumbus had another poor game and was consistently beaten by Justin Babineaux. This left Griffin with less time to go through his reads and contributed to his lack of success through the air.
Griffin did look to be developing a good rapport with tight end Fred Davis and showed calmness under pressure when running through his progressions, particularly on a 20-yard completion to Alfred Morris in the second quarter.
However, he also came up short on passes to Pierre Garcon on at least two occasions, as well as throwing behind Davis. On one occasion, Griffin threw almost with both feet off the ground as he attempted a screen pass to Davis while under pressure. He made the throw, but it's a dangerous habit to get into.
Of course, he wasn't helped by Garcon's inability to hold the ball on two routine catches. This has been a criticism of Garcon that he will need to address to justify his price tag.
The Redskins correctly challenged the call when Garcon was ruled to have fumbled in the third quarter, but it was a catch he should have made. He gets the benefit of the doubt here due to the fact he isn't playing at 100 percent.
The Redskins again struggled on third down, with Griffin going 0-for-7 while he was on the field. The pressure from the Falcons limited his options and he was rushed into incompletions.
In the second half, the Redskins needed to make plays and Griffin was attempting to do that when he was hit by Sean Weatherspoon along the sideline. He tried to slide but was awkward in doing so. Weatherspoon hit him as he went down.
Initially, he was described as “shaken up,” but that disconcertingly vague diagnosis was then upgraded to a mild concussion.
In a strange way, this could actually be of benefit to Griffin. Now he knows the inherent risk of taking off and trying to make plays, so maybe he will hesitate to throw himself head-first into tackles.
Kirk Cousins looked even more like a rookie, and the initial hope created by his 77-yard touchdown strike to Santana Moss gave way to two interceptions as he tried to force the game in the final two minutes.
Given his lack of first-team reps, it was too much to ask Cousins to string together a drive to force overtime.
Winner: Josh Wilson
Wilson gave up a couple of big plays, but was tight in coverage as part of a much-improved defensive effort.
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It wasn't so clear-cut this week, but Josh Wilson again proved himself as a cover corner against a top-quality receiver. Wilson was effective covering Julio Jones and played a key role in the Redskins' ability to keep the Atlanta offense in check for three quarters.
But Wilson was also beaten for large gains as the game went on, including a touchdown pass to Jones, who used his height advantage to gain the edge over Wilson in the air.
However, Rich Campbell tweeted that Wilson said he played his assignment properly on that TD play and that Jones was supposed to be covered by the safety.
Wilson has been outstanding all season, but the entire defense played at a higher level during this game. Stephen Bowen registered a sack and batted down a pass on consecutive plays, and Ryan Kerrigan had another consistent performance and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Jarvis Jenkins also looks to be improving and was successful against the run, as well as bringing pressure on Ryan in the first half. However, as much as the defense improved, it was on the field far too long as the offense failed to move the chains.
A special mention must also go to Lorenzo Alexander, who put his heart into special teams play. The Redskins have been hammered for their poor play on special teams, but Alexander did a lot to erase the memory of that.
Tony Gonzalez had 13 catches for 123 yards, making him this week's Danny Amendola, and Ryan completed 34 of 52 passes for 345 yards and a touchdown. Gonzalez was consistently open, but the Redskins were almost always quickly upon him after the catch.
The Redskins were outscored 17-7 in the final quarter, which is when the possession totals start to affect the game.
The Redskins' effort was encouraging. Not many people expected them to compete evenly with the Falcons for more than hree quarters, never mind four. But they were ultimately beaten by a superior unit.
That the Redskins didn't look inferior for most of the game is a credit to them and will give them a lot of hope going forward.
But they have now lost their last eight games at FedEx Field. That needs to be addressed if they are to have any success.