Redskins

Smith: Falcons not satisfied with 1 playoff win

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Smith: Falcons not satisfied with 1 playoff win

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) A slip of the tongue gave away Atlanta coach Mike Smith's focus.

Smith was just starting his review Monday of the Falcons' 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoffs when it became clear his thoughts were on this week's NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.

``We knew the San Francisco Forty ... excuse me, the Seattle Seahawks, were a very good football team and they showed a lot of resiliency,'' Smith said before smiling after catching his verbal miscue.

``We were very fortunate to make the plays there at the end of the game and get the win,'' he said.

The win over Seattle Sunday was the first for Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan in four postseason games with Atlanta. There was much talk after the game that the long-awaited first playoff win was the most important for the Falcons and would allow Ryan and other players to relax.

Smith shot down both theories.

``I don't think we'll be able to play looser,'' Smith said. ``I think we've got to get back into our preparation mode. I know many people have talked about the outcome and what does it mean to the Atlanta Falcons. It means we have an opportunity to play again and in the playoffs you want to keep playing. I think our guys understand the challenge this week is going to be big.''

The Falcons are the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Atlanta lost at home to Green Bay as the top seed following the 2010 regular season and then lost in the first round at the New York Giants last year.

Ryan and the Falcons built leads of 20-0 and 27-7 against Seattle before falling behind 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining. Then Ryan completed passes to Harry Douglas, for 22 yards, and Tony Gonzalez, for 19 yards, to set up Matt Bryant's go-ahead 49-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining.

Smith said it was a ``fun'' win for the team and the city of Atlanta, but he said it didn't mean the Falcons have realized their goals.

``Our goals and our expectations are a lot higher than just winning one playoff game,'' he said.

The Falcons will be home again for Sunday's NFC championship game as they look to advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. The 1998 season ended with a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos.

Ryan and some of his teammates acknowledged they are glad there will be no more questions about not winning a postseason game.

``But at the same time, our goal is not to win one playoff game,'' Ryan said. ``Our goal isn't to stop answering that question.

``Our goals are still in front of us. We still have two more games to go. That's the mind-set I have. That's the mind-set this team has.''

Asked if the monkey is off the team's back, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said ``maybe a little bit'' before also saying the team had bigger goals.

``The outsiders said we can't win in the playoffs, now they have to come up with other things to say,'' Weatherspoon said. ``Our goal is to get the next win and then the next one after that.''

Smith said he didn't sleep well Sunday night, but not because of a big celebration.

``No, not celebrating,'' he said. ``For everybody involved, that was a fun football game and it's hard to unwind from fun football games. I think for everybody at least here in Atlanta it certainly was. Then I got going this morning on San Francisco.''

There may be little sleep for Smith's defensive coaches this week as the Falcons prepare a plan to contain 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and rushed for 181 yards - a playoff record for a quarterback - in San Francisco's 45-31 win over Green Bay on Saturday.

The Falcons couldn't stop Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who had seven carries for 60 yards and a touchdown while passing for 385 yards and two touchdowns.

Smith said the 6-foot-5 Kaepernick is ``probably between Russell'' and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who also had success against the Falcons this season.

Newton ran for 116 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run, while passing for 287 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers' 30-20 home win over the Falcons on Dec. 9. Newton ran for 87 yards with a touchdown and passed for 215 yards with two touchdowns in the Falcons' 30-28 win over Carolina on Sept. 30.

Wilson had only 26 yards rushing in the first half as the Seahawks were held scoreless. The rookie quarterback gained momentum after Falcons defensive end John Abraham aggravated his left ankle injury midway through the second quarter. Abraham did not play in the second half.

Smith said he expects Abraham to be back in practice ``before the end of the week.''

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Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

When the Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the organization hoped their investment in the passer would result in Washington finding its franchise quarterback of the future.

Whether Haskins becomes that franchise quarterback is still up for debate, as the signal-caller had an up-and-down rookie season. But the Ohio State product seemed to improve by the week and ended the season playing his best football, giving fans hope for the future.

Kurt Warner, a Super Bowl-champion quarterback who had to wait several years before getting his first NFL shot, believes Haskins can eventually develop into that franchise QB for the Burgundy and Gold.

The Super Bowl-winning quarterback joined the Redskins Talk podcast on Tuesday, and spoke highly of the 22-year-old's ability.

"The skillset, without question, is there," Warner said. "We saw that in college, we saw that in moments last year."

Warner explained that one of the things he looks for in young passers is their week-to-week improvement. That's something Haskins did very well towards the end of the 2019 season.

"To me, that's what greatness is all about," Warner said. "It's not about coming into the league and being a finished product. It's about working and getting better all the time."

In his final two games, Haskins threw for 394 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions on 72 percent completion rate. He was on his way to the best game of his brief career in Week 16 against the Giants before an ankle injury ended his afternoon in the third quarter.

"What I saw with Dwayne this year, he did improve game by game," Warner said. "As he got more comfortable with the NFL, as he got more comfortable with the system, he played better and better and made them more competitive each and every time out."

The 2020 offseason is crucial for Haskins. It's his first full offseason in the NFL, and seems poised to make a jump in Year 2. 

Haskins dealt with a lot in 2019, rookie or not. Five weeks into the season, his head coach was fired. He wasn't named the starter until Week 9, only due to injury to Case Keenum. Entering his second season, Haskins has a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new position coach.

There's little carryover from a season ago. Very few organizations that constantly change in the NFL are successful. 

"For young quarterbacks or players in general, you want to be able to find something you’re comfortable with and grow in," Warner said. "Hopefully this is the only move they make during Dwayne's career and he can get comfortable in that offense and hopefully one day be playing in the Super Bowl as well."

Warner knows plenty about waiting to get his opportunity; he didn't get his first shot in the NFL until he was 28. But he was put into an offense nicknamed 'The Greatest Show on Turf" that featured plenty of weapons -- Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt -- which allowed the inexperienced Warner to thrive.

In his first season as the Rams starter, Warner threw for a league-high 41 touchdown passes on an 8.2 percent touchdown rate, with just 13 interceptions. His 109.2 quarterback rating was the NFL's best that season. The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating Tennessee.

"I think the other component is finding the right situation, the right system for you," Warner said. When I got back into the NFL with the Rams, I was 28 years old when I got my first start. I was able to have a lot of success early because I found myself in the right system. The offense did what I did well. It played to my strengths."

Washington doesn't have the weapons that Warner's Rams did, but the Redskins have several young assets -- Terry McLaurin, Derrius Guice and Steven Sims -- that have shown promise. Getting Haskins in the right system, one that caters to his strengths, will be crucial in the development of the young passer.

"I believe that is key for players, especially at the quarterback position. You've got to find a system," Warner said. "In this case in Washington, they need to build a system around what Dwayne Haskins does well. That's how you thrive. That's how you get to and win Super Bowls."

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'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller spent a combined six seasons with the Redskins, yet neither corner won a playoff game during their tenures there.

Therefore, you can excuse them if they're having a hard time expressing what it's like now being in the Super Bowl together with the Chiefs.

"It's still unbelievable," Breeland told JP Finlay at SB LIV's Media Night on Monday. "I can't even find the words to fathom how I feel about this opportunity."

In fact, the last time Breeland and Finlay chatted, the former was literally asking the latter where to purchase tickets for the NFL's biggest spectacle. He shouldn't have much trouble getting inside of the stadium this time around, though.

"I ended up not even going to that game," he said. "I told myself I wasn't going to the Super Bowl until I got a chance to play in it. Couple of years later, it came true."

Breeland's path to the Chiefs was quite bumpy. After playing for the Redskins for four years and departing after 2017, he inked a well-earned three-year deal with the Panthers. However, he cut his foot during a trip to the Dominican Republic, causing him to fail his physical with Carolina and voiding his contract.

Breeland eventually joined the Packers halfway through 2018, and then he signed with the Chiefs this past offseason. His compensation with Kansas City doesn't come close to what he could've had with Carolina, but a Super Bowl appearance plus his two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2019 could help him cash in when free agency begins in a few months.

Fuller, meanwhile, took a much more direct route to the now-AFC champions. The Burgundy and Gold's 2016 draft selection was a part of the shocking Alex Smith trade and he's now concluding his second campaign with his second pro team.

The fact that the pair is reunited again and one win away from reaching the top of the sport isn't lost on Fuller, especially after some of the struggles they experienced with the Redskins. 

"It's been fun," he said. "After we won the AFC Championship game, me and [Breeland] were just kind of sitting on the bench looking at each other, knowing how far we came."

The key to K.C.'s rise, according to Breeland, has been their unity. The almost 28-year-old didn't directly call out Washington for lacking a similar closeness, but his comments don't exactly require much parsing to realize the comparison he's making.

So, while he and Fuller are obviously looking ahead to the 49ers, the following comment from Breeland's brief reflection on his past is telling about what the Redskins need to fix on their end.

"Throughout crunch time, everybody pulls together," Breeland explained. "I've been on different sidelines when things go bad, a lot of people start bickering and pull apart from each other. Those were the times that [this team] got closer and pulled together the most."

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