IT WAS OVER WHEN... Rookie QB Kirk Cousins, playing in relief of Robert Griffin III, threw his second interception in two plays with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter. Cousins was under pressure, but he got the ball off cleanly and deep downfield. Atlanta defensive back Thomas Decoud stepped in front of the pass and made the easy interception.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING... The Redskins came into the game last in the NFL in third down conversions, turning only 26 percent of third down plays into first downs. That got worse today, as a 1 for 9 day on third down lowered the team's conversion rate to 23 percent. There were a number of reasons for the third down failures today. TE Fred Davis and WR Santana Moss both dropped passes on third down that would have been first downs had the ball been caught. Twice on third down and long the ball was thrown short of the first down marker and not advanced far enough for a first down. Twice on third and short TB Alfred Morris was stopped, once for no gain and losing two yards the other time. In both cases there was little help from his offensive line. Robert Griffin III was dropped for a one yard loss [and was knocked out of the game] on a third down scramble run in the red zone, forcing Washington to kick a short field goal.
The Redskins need to do a much better job turning third downs into first downs so the offense can extend drives and hang on to the football. Alfred Morris rushed for 115 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry and the team still lost the time of possession battle by 14 minutes because they couldn't convert third downs. This left the defense on the field far too long and it finally collapsed in the fourth quarter, allowing the Falcons to score 17 points in the final 15 minutes. The arm tackles and poor coverage near the end of the game was ample evidence of how tired the defense had become.
I LIKED... The run blocking and running of TB Alfred Morris continue to be excellent. If Morris stays healthy and the offensive line can keep blocking this way for him, the rookie tailback will churn up a lot of yards in 2012. He rushed for 115 yards on a 6.1 per carry average today and, by my count, he got 60 of those yards before he was really touched by a defnder. That's great blocking. On the other hand, Morris compiled 55 yards after contact, which is excellent. Morris also had a 20-yard catch and run, where he took a short screen in the flat and got all 20 yards on the play after the catch. He had to run through several tackles and fall forward to pick up 20 yards, but it is the sort of brutal, tough running we're accustomed to seeing now from Morris. The kid isn't a sleeper anymore, he's a keeper.
Redskins linebackers Ryan Kerrigan, Perry Riley and London Fletcher combined for 43 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.
I DID NOT LIKE... Expensive free agent WR Pierre Garcon dropped three passes today and caught only three passes out of seven thrown to him. I know his foot is still healing, but I don't understand why that should affect his hands.
WRs Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson combined for two catches for 7 yards today. The Skins need more than that from their #2 and #3 wideouts.
PK Billy Cundiff missed a 31-yard FG today and obviously cannot be counted on to convert even easily opportunities into three points. He needs to go tomorrow. No excuses.
AND IT ALL MEANS... A tough home loss for the Redskins, who dropped their eighth straight game in FedEx Field. [Why are fans still paying for those tickets?!] Not many people expected the Redskins to defeat the 5-0 Falcons, who may be the best team in the NFL and certainly are the class of the NFC right now. The Redskins defense managed to keep the Falcons wideouts, Roddy White and Julio Jones, contained for most of the game, but Jones finally broke through in the fourth quarter for an 18-yard TD from QB Matt Ryan. Meanwhile, TE Tony Gonzalez torched the Redskins for 123 receiving yards on 13 catches and a touchdown.
The big story for the Redskins, though, apart from the loss, is the loss of RG3, who was knocked out of the game by a hard hit in the Atlanta red zone on the 35th offensive play of the game for Washington. The Redskins listed RG3 as "shaken up, questionable to return" but he never did, leaving fellow rookie Kirk Cousins to lead the offense thereafter. Head Coach Mike Shanahan said after the game that RG3 suffered a "mild concussion" and was feeling better by the end of the game. This season for the Redskins isn't really about wins and losses, though a few more wins -- especially at home -- sure would be nice. This season is about the development of RG3 and he can't develop if he is injured. The Redskins continued to try to protect RG3 today, calling only one designed run on the play. Griffin was injured while trying to pick up a third down unsuccessfully] while scrambling to the right sideline. It's the sort of football play that is completely normal and while voices will continue to call for Washington to do more to protect their rookie star QB, there isn't much more they can do at this point. Griffin was hurt on a play that could happen to any quartetback, one of those most common football plays there is.
The important thing is for RG3 to get healthy soon and return for Washington's home game against the surprising Minnesota Vikings. Let's hope he does.