With five wins through their first seven games, the Redskins have an opportunity to match their best start to a season in a decade, when they started the 2008 season at 6-2.
The Falcons (3-4) have won two straight games and are coming off their bye week. Atlanta has won the previous five meetings between the two teams, and have never lost when visiting FedExField.
Will the Redskins be able to turn their recent fortunes against the Falcons around?
Check out the highs and lows from Week 9.
Redskins vs Falcons: Highs and Lows
HIGHS: The Redskins are 5-0 when scoring first, but that won’t be a thing today against Atlanta. The Falcons’ scored on their opening drive. A diving third-down catch by wide receiver Paul Richardson kept Washington’s second drive going.
But Quinton Dunbar’s interception of a pass intended for Atlanta wide receiver Calvin Ridley stopped a Falcons’ drive cold. It was Dunbar’s fifth career interception. He stepped in front of the Matt Ryan Pass at the nine and returned it 24 yards.
Adrian Peterson ended the quarter with runs of three and eight yards and then a catch for eight as Washington’s offense started clicking.
LOWS: The opening drive was a disaster. Shawn Lauvao committed a holding penalty on 2nd-and-6 to negate a Jordan Reed first down catch. Lauvao sustained a left knee injury on the next play – a sack of quarterback Alex Smith for a nine-yard loss - and his return is questionable.
Atlanta converted its first three third-down situations. Running back Tevin Coleman took a screen pass from quarterback Matt Ryan 39 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The injuries to the offensive line continued on the second Redskins drive. This time right tackle Morgan Moses went down after committing a holding penalty. Moses walked off under his own power, but lay on the field for a while. He is questionable to return with a knee injury. Rookie Geron Christian, Sr. took over at right tackle.
On that same second drive wide receiver Josh Doctson dropped two passes, including one over the middle with what would have been a first down.
HIGHS: Vernon Davis caught an 11-yard pass on 3rd-and-10 at the 20 for a critical first down to avoid a three-and-out after an Atlanta touchdown. Alex Smith followed with a 12-yard pass to tight end Jordan Reed for a first down. Smith somehow avoided a sack near midfield and ran 22 yards for a first down before taking a huge shot from Atlanta safety Brian Poole because he didn’t feel like sliding or getting out of bounds.
No matter. Smith hit Maurice Harris on a slant pass for 18 yards and then Josh Doctson on a fade in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown pass. The Redskins were back in the game at 14-7.
A Ryan Kerrigan sack just before the 2-minute warning put the Falcons on their heels. Kerrigan has 4.5 sacks in his last 10 quarters. Matt Ioannidis added a sack of his own as Atlanta drove for a late first-half score. He has 3.5 sacks in his past 10 quarters.
LOWS: The Falcons converted yet another third-and-six when Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 21-yard reception and a first down to move the ball outside the shadow of its own goal line on its first drive of the second quarter.
Running back Ito Smith later bulled his way into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown run to end that drive and make it 14-0 with 9:10 left in the first half.
On 3rd-and-9 with time running out in the half, Calvin Ridley caught a 10-yard pass from Ryan and slipped through multiple Redskins defenders for a 40-yard touchdown to make it 21-7. Atlanta has hit on its first eight third-down chances.
A hold on Washington right tackle Morgan Moses – back from injury - negated a 28-yard pass to Josh Doctson that would have put the Redskins in easy field goal range with one second to go.
HIGHS: Well, the Redskins defense forced a three-and-out after falling behind 28-7. The offense then endured a disaster of a first drive. But punter Tress Way, who has pinned Atlanta inside the 20 three different times, had a 51-yard punt to at least give Washington’s defense a chance.
Maurice Harris caught a 33-yard pass from Alex Smith on Washington’s second drive of the third quarter. He added a 25-yard catch to move into scoring position. On 4th-and-3 from the 13, Vernon Davis caught a 10-yard pass for a first down. Running back Kapri Bibbs capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run to make it 28-14 with 2:15 left in the quarter.
LOWS: The third quarter started off the way the second quarter ended: With the Falcons moving the ball at will. Running back Tevin Coleman caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to make it 28-7. Atlanta ran for 44 yards on an 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took up the first 5:02 of the quarter. The Falcons didn’t even need a third-down conversion on that one so things were going great.
Haven’t seen a team gash the Redskins on the ground like this all season. Atlanta had 113 rushing yards at the end of the third. The Redskins hadn’t allowed 100 rushing yards to an opponent since the Week 3 win against the Green Bay Packers.
Meanwhile, Shawn Lauvao was officially ruled out for the rest of the game with a knee injury.
Josh Doctson made a great leaping catch on third down to keep a drive alive – and then promptly took a 15-yard taunting penalty. Brandon Scherff’s spot-of-the-foul holding penalty reduced an Adrian Peterson 25-yard catch to a three-yard gain. Then Scherff hurt his left shoulder and Morgan Moses took an unsportsmanlike penalty. The ball went from the Atlanta 47 to the Washington 16 for a 3rd-and-34. Scherff did not return.
HIGHS: Not sure how to find any “highs” when a team runs four offensive plays in the first 11:15 of a quarter where they trail by two touchdowns. No more injuries, I suppose. Let’s go with that. The Redskins had enough through the first three quarters.
Maurice Harris caught three passes on Washington’s final drive of the fourth quarter. That capped a career day. Harris had 10 catches for 125 yards and was targeted 12 times by quarterback Alex Smith. Something to build on.
LOWS: How about two holding calls on the same play? That happened. Morgan Moses and Geron Christian, Sr. held and Alex Smith was sacked on a critical 3rd-and-3 at the Redskins 42 down 28-14 early in the fourth quarter. That drive ended in a Tress Way punt.
Josh Norman’s 47-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-13 allowed Atlanta a first down at the 12. The Falcons kicked a 27-yard field goal to put the game out of reach at 31-14 with 7:09 to play. The drive was 10 plays fore 72 yards in 6:43.
The Redskins’ fourth play of the fourth quarter came with 7:09 to go and resulted in an immediate interception when Alex Smith’s pass to Jordan Reed was knocked loose, popped into the air and intercepted by Atlanta safety Damontae Kazee, who promptly ran down to the end zone tunnel and launched the ball into outer space. The fine will probably be worth it.
Atlanta promptly went on a six-play, 56-yard scoring drive that ended with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. That made it 38-14 and sent what fans remained at FedEx Field scrambling for the exits.
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- Skins-Falcons: Best moments from Week 8