The Atlanta Falcons rolled into Washington and rolled over the ‘Skins. It was, unequivocally, the best game of the 2018 season — Atlanta appeared solid in each and every phase, and now stand at 4-4 with their playoff aspirations intact. While it was the Falcons’ most complete performance this season, there were still some areas that warrant improvement. Read on for this week’s Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers.
The offensive line
The Falcons’ offensive line was having none of Washington’s nonsense in this game, and it showed. With all of the injuries and all of the moving parts, they showed their mettle against one of the toughest defensive fronts in the NFL. They were fantastic in pass protection, surrendering only two sacks and giving Matt Ryan plenty of time to work in the pocket.
The ground game? Well, that’s where this group truly shined. The Falcons’ running game has left much to be desired this season, and the smart money wouldn’t have them breaking out against such a stout Washington front. Smart money would have been wrong Sunday. The O-line was creating lanes and maintaining leverage all game, and the result was 154 rushing yards and a touchdown for the Falcons.
Damontae Kazee corralling the interception
All Day Damontae. I’m still not quite sure how he had the body control to secure a bobbled pass for the pick and plant both feet firmly in bounds, but he did it, and each and every week he finds new ways to impress. Dan Quinn will have a decision to make next season, because Kazee is simply electric on defense.
With Damontae Kazee’s acrobatic interception, he now moves into a tie for most in the league with four. Multiple tips of the hat.
Julio gets in the end zone
Exhale. The drought is over, and Julio Jones broke it in extremely Jonesian fashion: Taking a screen pass from Matt Ryan 35 yards and shoving off Ha Ha Clinton-Dix en route to the end zone. He was rightly mobbed by his teammates after the score, and we can finally put that little facet of this season to bed.
Bonus hat tip to Jake Matthews who mauled Josh Norman on the play like he was an over-matched challenger in King of the Mountain.
Calvin Ridley’s first quarter
He more than made up for it with a long touchdown in the second quarter, but Calvin Ridley had an abysmal start to this game. Ridley dropped two passes — including one that hit him right in the numbers — and later in the quarter appeared to run the wrong route leading to an interception. Ridley has been a revelation for this offense, but as a rookie he will of course takes his lumps as he continues to learn. Head-scratcher of a quarter from him, but a positive sign to see him bounce back in a big way later in the game.
Vic Beasley’s missed sack
This is getting redundant, but Beasley’s failure to wrap up Alex Smith was another low point in a season brimming with them, and it proved consequential as well. Beasley whizzed past the Washington quarterback like he was coming in for a speed-dating Do-si-do, the failure to nail the sack leading to Smith scrambling for 22 yards. Three plays later? Touchdown pass to Josh Doctson.
Beasley has been a staple in head-scratchers section this season, and his play on Sunday doesn’t give any confidence that he’ll leave it any time soon.
Desmond Trufant’s missing hands
Put these things on a milk carton already. Desmond Trufant could not haul in what would have been a key interception against Cincinnati, and dropped two against Washington. The first elicited flashbacks of Keanu Neal’s would-be pick against Philadelphia in the 2017 NFC Divisional Game, the deflection landing in the hands of Josh Doctson. Mercifully overturned due to offensive holding, the missed interception nearly cost the Falcons points heading into the half.
Trufant whiffed on another one in the third quarter, and it’s starting to look routine. Desmond Trufant still logged a nice game in coverage, but his inability to reel in seemingly clear interceptions has gotten old. Scratching my head, and securing this man some reservations with the Jugs machine.