Following a couple of AFC matchups against teams they have not faced very often historically, the Falcons will kick it off against an NFC opponent which has beaten them a decent bit over the past several decades, and absolutely ravaged them before the turn of the millennia.
The Washington Redskins turned Football Team turned Commanders have an all-time 17-10-1 record against the Falcons, but that’s actually pretty good for Atlanta, given how this series looked originally. Washington sported a robust 14-4-1 head to head record during the pre-Arthur Blank era of Falcons football.
That all started with five wins and one tie in the first six matchups which ranged between 1966 and 1977. Atlanta, being an infant franchise which struggled to find its footing early, was no match for the already established Redskins.
Things got even worse for the Birds during the Joe Gibbs era of Washington football (1981-1992). Under the Hall of Fame coach, the Redskins won three Super Bowls and sported a 7-1 record head to head against Atlanta.
1991 was a particularly difficult year for the Birds, as they got shellacked 56-17 in the regular season against Washington before getting knocked out by the Hogs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs by a 24-7 scoreline. Gibbs would lead his team to their third title in a decade that season.
The Falcons finally had some success in the form of six straight wins against the suddenly not so mighty Washington teams of the 2000s, but Washington has started turning the tables again with two consecutive Taylor Heinicke led victories the last couple of meetings.
The Falcons (5-6) and Commanders (6-5) were both in playoff contention against one another when they met in a rainy Washington on Thanksgiving weekend, both coming off of victories to carry forth some momentum.
The Commanders were powered by an inspired performance from Brian Robinson Jr., who had 125 yards from scrimmage and a receiving touchdown. His score was actually the first trip to the end zone for either team in this one, as he made the connection with future Falcon Taylor Heinicke.
Atlanta’s lone touchdown was by way of a Marcus Mariota connection with MyCole Pruitt, and unfortunately for them Heinicke still had one more left in the tank to John Bates in the third quarter. The rest of Atlanta’s scoring, meanwhile, came by way of a couple of Younghoe Koo field goals.
The Falcons found themselves down 19-13 with 5:03 remaining in the fourth quarter and a chance at glory if they could go 84 yards for the game winning touchdown. Mariota led them 82 yards over the next four minutes exactly, and to a 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard-line. After a subsequent QB run which lost two yards, a pass deflected by Daron Payne ended up in the hands of Kendall Fuller in the end zone for an interception which broke Falcons hearts and dealt a significant blow to their playoff hopes.
That would be the first of four consecutive defeats which did indeed bury the Falcons’ post season aspirations, while the Commanders went on their own four game winless stretch to also miss out on the playoffs.