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Redskins vs Falcons: Highs and Lows from Week 9

Redskins vs Falcons: Highs and Lows from Week 9

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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Good, bad and ugly make up Redskins head coach debuts over the years

Good, bad and ugly make up Redskins head coach debuts over the years

As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. That is true in all walks of life, including the professional sports world. And while the NFL may be a “what have you done for me lately” business, it is imperative to kick off a coaching tenure on a positive note,  rather than playing from behind the entire way.

Ron Rivera is set to take over as the 30th head coach in franchise history when his squad presumably lines up against the Eagles on September 13th in Landover. With team workouts currently not an option, it is certainly too early to gauge how those two teams will match up in Week 1 - but if recent history is any indication, that debut could go either way.


It could end up like Mike Shanahan’s primetime victory in his 2010 debut against the rival Cowboys, or like the return of Joe Gibbs back in 2004 that saw Washington outlast Tampa Bay, and even like Steve Spurrier’s high-powered win over the Cardinals in 2002 - all first impressions that the burgundy and gold promptly celebrated with a “Victory Monday” and left the fanbase hopeful for a return to glory.

But the glass could end up looking half empty as well, as it has so many times before. Jay Gruden and Jim Zorn certainly didn’t inspire confidence with their initial performances in the district. Neither did Marty Schottenheimer, who lost the opener of his only season with the Redskins. You can go all the way back to Norv Turner, who had the difficult task of following the first run of legendary Coach Gibbs with the Redskins, and he did so by falling to the Seahawks in 1994.


What is also important to note is that the debut isn't the all-telling game for head coaches. Though it sets the tone, some have rebounded from poor starts, while others have struggled after solid beginnings. Spurrier's first win was followed by two disappointing years, while Joe Gibbs' 0-5 start in 1981 was soon forgotten when he held up the Lombardi Trophy three times.

In 2011, Rivera lost in his head coaching debut with the Panthers, but a lot has changed since then. He eventually figured things out in Carolina, amassing 76 wins over 9 successful seasons, including an appearance in Super Bowl 50. Rivera created a reputation that preceded his arrival in Ashburn, and since then it has been clear that it is a new era for the Redskins.

As for how that era begins? History tells us to buckle up.

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PLL founder Paul Rabil has plenty in common with fellow DeMatha alum and Redskins pick Chase Young

PLL founder Paul Rabil has plenty in common with fellow DeMatha alum and Redskins pick Chase Young

When the Redskins drafted Chase Young second overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, the pass rusher became the latest on a long list of alumni from DeMatha Catholic High School to become a top draft pick.

Shortly after he was drafted, the 21-year-old received a message from professional lacrosse player Paul Rabil, a fellow DeMatha alum and the founder of the Premier Lacrosse League. 

Rabil recently joined NBC Sports Washington's D.C. Sports Live crew and explained why he reached out to the top Redskins draft pick.

"Chase is great, man," Rabil explained. "I shot him a note because obviously I think he's a generational talent, his athleticism, his size and his work ethic."

Rabil, who's widely considered the best lacrosse player by many of his peers, expressed that besides the fact that he and Young both attended DeMatha, the two have a decent amount in common, including a jersey number.

"I'm pumped to see him wear No. 99," Rabil said. "We have that in common. Sharing some additional commonalities is something Chase and I went back and forth on."


Neither Young nor Rabil sported the 99 before becoming professionals. As Rabil explained to the D.C. Sports Live crew, he simply picked 99 when turning pro because No. 9, the number he had worn his entire career prior, was already taken by a teammate.

Like Rabil, Young wore No. 9 at DeMatha before changing to No. 2 at Ohio State. With defensive ends required to wear a number between 50-79 or 90-99 in the NFL, Young picked the closest thing that resembled his high school number in 99.

Sharing a number is just one of multiple things both Rabil and Young do have a lot in common, despite being 13 years apart in age. At DeMatha, both athletes were All-Americans and top recruits in their respective sport.

As Rabil explained, the athletics culture at DeMatha is special.

"I think it's something perhaps they put in the water fountains at DeMatha," Rabil joked. "It's a great culture. It's a sports culture."

DeMatha first became a national powerhouse in basketball in the 1960s behind the late legendary coach Morgan Wootten. That strong culture has remained in the basketball program -- the school has won 41 WCAC championships since the 1960s -- but has also transferred over to all of the school's other athletic programs, too. 

"I think it comes down to a lot of the coaching and the camaraderie. I've seen it ebb and flow over time," Rabil said. "We were powerhouses in football, basketball, obviously the origin in Morgan Wootten and basketball and what we've done there. But that bleeds over into wrestling and soccer [and more]."

Rabil led DeMatha to a lacrosse WCAC championship in each of his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, earning numerous honors and accolades along the way. On the football side, Young played an integral role in leading DeMatha to a WCAC title both in his junior and senior years, too.

Although it's been 16 years since Rabil was a student at the Hyattsville school, he's still just as proud to call himself a DeMatha alum.

"It's a great community to be a part of and one I'm really proud to continue to talk about," he said.

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