The Atlanta Falcons had two weeks, almost, to get healthy and put a plan together for their final nine games. I don’t know how well that plan will hold up as the weeks grind on, but against Washington, it looked borderline brilliant.
Atlanta simply whipped Washington up and down the field, showing impressive resolve on defense and doing what they wanted on offense against a very good defense. The potent Washington front seven had held three very good backs in a row to under 50 yards, yet they were gashed by Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. I did not see that coming—I’m not sure how you could have, given this team’s performance on the ground in recent weeks—but it helped Atlanta jumped out to an intimidating 28-7 lead.
The second half saw Washington figure out this Falcons defense a little bit, which enabled them to drive down and make it a two score game. They also got their first stop in the third quarter, leading to the typical Falcons fan nervousness that follows the erasure of a big lead. But then Atlanta got another stop, and then a short field goal, and they were up 17 in the fourth quarter. Add in a beautiful Damontae Kazee interception and Julio Jones’ first touchdown of the season and it was 38-14, and it was just a question of getting to the end of the game.
Overall, it was an impressive effort from this team, one that could have been more lopsided if not for a handful of miscues and bad penalties. They showed us that Atlanta has the talent and the drive to win football games despite all their many injuries, and while Washingotn was not the toughest matchup they’ll face this year, it was a damned impressive performance regardless. They’re now .500 and despite myself, I’m starting to believe they can be a player in the playoff race the rest of the way. They never, ever lack for resolve.
On to the drive-by-drive summary, if you care to join us.
Washington started the game with the ball. Adrian Peterson picked up a few yards on the first carry of the game, and then Washington had a first down pass called back by a holding penalty. On 2nd and 15, Grady Jarrett absolutely bulled the left guard backwards and sacked Alex Smith for a huge loss. They then threw a screen on 3rd and 25, but Duke Riley got the stop well shy of a first down. Punt.
The pressure came for Matt Ryan immediately, but he got rid of it for an incompletion. Second down was a short run that went three yards, but Ryan found Mohamed Sanu on the sideline for a 12 yard gain and a first down. The Falcons then didn’t get a ton going until third down, when he connected with a nice first down catch and run for Austin Hooper. The very next play, the Falcons threw a screen pass to Tevin Coleman and some stellar blocking got him loose for a 39 yard touchdown. The Falcons were first on the board.
Falcons 7 - Washington 0
A tipped pass off Kemal Ishmael’s helmet started things off, and then Adrian Peterson bulled his way for like three yards on second down. Then Vic Beasley jumped offsides to give Washington 3rd and 2, and Alex Smith was able to connect with Paul Richardson for a first down. Right tackle Morgan Moses went down on an Adrian Peterson run for no gain, and got the hold to make it 1st and 20. 2nd and 20 came on a missed pass, and then Washington picked up five heading into 3rd down. Josh Doctson dropped an easy first down pass and Washington had to punt.
The Falcons got a first down on a pass to Julio Jones immediately, but the next pass went to Calvin Ridley and he dropped it. Tevin Coleman then turned on the jets to pick up a first down on a toss, and Mohamed Sanu got seven yards on a first down pass, followed by Ito Smith picking up a handful for another first down. A tipped first down pass made it so Marvin Hall couldn’t get the pass, but the Falcons kept going. Ito Smith continued to be a factor as a receiver on this drive, and then as a runner as the Falcons inched closer to the end zone. Unfortunately, the drive ended with Matt Ryan’s third interception of the season, a play where Calvin Ridley was only in the neighborhood of the ball.
Washington picked up a first down thanks to Adrian Peterson, and then the second quarter came.
Peterson was swallowed up for a loss on the first play of the quarter. Then Alex Smith missed a throw with time in the pocket, setting up 3rd and 12. Jordan Reed got a catch on third down, but De’Vondre Campbell was able to drag him to the ground four yards short of a first down. Another punt for Washington.
Tevin Coleman started the next drive with a dropped pass. Then he bulled ahead for three yards and the Falcons were at 3rd and 7, and Julio Jones bailed out the Falcons with a nice catch over hte middle on third down. The next play saw Calvin Ridley get nailed for a loss on a play where he no room to run, and then Julio Jones picked up another first down in a triangle of Washington defenders. A botched pass to Ito Smith followed, and then Coleman picked up six on the ground before Austin Hooper snagged a first down grab on third down yet again. Then Ito Smith got some great blocking and leapt, powered and fell his way into the end zone for six.
Falcons 14 - Washington 0
Alex Smith was flushed out of the pocket and had to throw it away on first down, and then had an incomplete pass on second down, but converted on third down with a pass to Vernon Davis. Then Smith got Jordan Reed for another first down to get Washington close to midfield. Foye Oluokun almost got Alex Smith, but he threw it away and Josh Doctson got between it and the sideline for five yards. Then three Falcons converged on Alex Smith and failed to bring him down, allowing him to scramble down into the red zone on a frankly embarrassing play ended by a nice big hit by Brian Poole. Then Smith completed two nice passes in a row, including a jump ball for Josh Doctson, and got on the board.
Falcons 14 - Washington 7
The first play of this drive was a sack of Matt Ryan by Ryan Kerrigan, which was not a great start for this offense. Calvin Ridley picked up five on a screen pass following that, and then Ryan found Mohamed Sanu over the middle of the field for a first down. Then Ryan couldn’t hit Sanu because #31 on Washington was dragging Sanu away from the ball for seconds before the throw. Unfortunately, Ryan was sacked again, this time by Matt Ionadis getting by Ben Garland. Julio Jones picked up some yardage to get the Falcons to 3rd and 9 and then Calvin Ridley got open in front of Washington and then simply outran them to the end zone for a 40 yard touchdown grab. That’s his seventh of the season.
Falcons 21 - Washington 7
Kapri Bibbs picked up some yardage to try to get Washington on board before the half, leaving 17 seconds on the clock. Then they picked up another first down to get them to near midfield with 10 seconds. A screw up by Vic Beasley and Desmond Trufant was erased by penalty and Washington failed to score heading into the half.
A nine yard run for Tevin Coleman to start things off, which is pretty good. Then he picked up 16. Then seven. Washington’s vaunted run defense couldn’t do anything against Coleman to start things off. Then Ryan found Ridley for a first down, another pass picked up another first down, and then Ben Garland got popped for a false start. Then Tevin Coleman got another nice run and a beautiful, wide open catch and throw for Coleman that resulted in yet another touchdown. The Falcons were up big now.
Falcons 28 - Washington 7
Washington couldn’t get much going until Alex Smith hit Josh Doctson down on the sideline for a big pickup, though much of it was erased by Josh Doctson’s taunting call after the play. Then Adrian Peterson got loose, but a holding call brought it back. Then Alex Smith missed badly on a throw downfield and we were at 3rd and 19, plus another injury for Washington. Another penalty on Morgan Moses for talking to a ref overmuch later, it was 3rd and 34, and Washington couldn’t convert. Punt.
Six yards for Tevin Coleman on the first play of the game, followed by a throw behind Julio Jones, and the Falcons were on third down. They couldn’t get the ball to Mohamed Sanu, so Matt Bosher came on to punt.
Washington found a slackening Falcons defense. Maurice Harris had two very nice grabs and the team got way over midfield and all the way to the 30 before the Falcons got some pressure and forced an incompletion. Then a short Jordan Reed catch and a long Vernon Davis one gave them fourth and short. They converted on another Vernon Davis catch and then Kapri Bibbs took it in for a touchdown, making it a two score game.
Falcons 28 - Washington 14
Atlanta went three and out with the quickness, with a pass to Austin Hooper that actually lost yardage, an incomplete, and a pass short of the sticks for Julio Jones. Punt.
Washington picked up another quick first down to Vernon Davis.
Then Washington stalled out on the next series as Blidi Wreh-Wilson made a nice play on 3rd and long. Unfortunately, Takk went offsides and it was 3rd and 3. Fortunately, Washington held twice, Alex Smith had to scramble out of bounds, and Washington had to punt.
The Falcons got a first down on a nice run by Tevin Coleman, and then a short pass to Calvin Ridley lost a yard. Ridley picked up a first down on the play after that, however, and Coleman continued to run well, with only a holding call slowing him down. Unfortunately, another call on Hooper brought the Falcons back to 3rd and 13 where they would have had a big first down over midfield. Then Matt Ryan aired it out to Julio Jones, who was dragged to the ground with the ball still in the air for a 47 yard pass interference call. Then they scored...but Marvin Hall was called for pass interference and the Falcons were backed up again. They managed to erase some of that with some nice short passes to Tevin Coleman, but it was only to get close enough for Giorgio Tavecchio to kick a short field goal, and he hit the 27 yarder.
Falcons 31 - Washington 14
Alex Smith threw a sideline pass that Blidi Wreh-Wilson knocked loose for Damontae Kazee to make an incredible, diving interception on right on the sideline. Atlanta ball.
Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith ground it out, but a gutsy first down catch by Mohamed Sanu set the Falcons up for Julio Jones to make a 30-plus yard touchdown grab, his first touchdown of the season and a brilliant play overall. The Falcons were up 24 points at this point with not much time raining in the fourth quarter.
Falcons 38 - Washington 14
Washington just wanted to save some dignity here at the end, and they set about doing so by running, throwing, and presumably whispering “We think we can” over and over again. Jack Crawford managed a sack on that final drive, and Washington got close as time ticked down, but they wound up falling well short. Atlanta won!