In a game with as many twists and turns as the Redskins’ loss to the Falcons had, there are always coaching decisions that are questioned. Let’s look at a few of Jay Gruden’s calls that are being questioned by many and a few others that may have been questioned had they turned out differently.
Situation: Early in the second quarter of a scoreless game the Redskins faced fourth and one at the Atlanta 10. Gruden decided to go for the first down and they made the yard on a quarterback sneak.
Pro: The Redskins had to settle for too many field goals and it almost cost them the game against the Eagles a week ago. Against an undefeated opponent on the road they had to go for it.
Con: If it had not worked, the Falcons home crowd, which had not had much to cheer about to that point, would have gotten into it and the momentum would have switched to the players in the red shirts.
Result: The Redskins converted and drove in for the score. The sneak is a high-percentage play and Cousins made it with ease. The odds favor getting the yard so it was the proper, moderately aggressive call.
Situation: Working with a 7-3 lead, the Redskins had a nice drive going but it stalled at the Falcons’ 35. In a similar situation against the Eagles Gruden decided to punt. This time the call was to send out Dustin Hopkins to try a 53-yard field goal. It was wide right.
Pro: At that stage of the game it was apparent that a shootout was not in the making and that every point would be precious.
Con: It looked like Tress Way was punting with some precision (two of his four punts on the day ended up inside the 20) and he could have pinned the Falcons back. With points at a premium, maybe field position would have been a better play.
Result: The Falcons took possession at their own 43 and drove down to the Washington 10 but they had to settle for a field goal. Bottom line, I think that Hopkins’ later 52-yard boot justified going for the points in the dome.
Situation: Midway through the fourth quarter the Redskins scored on a two-yard run by Matt Jones to take a 13-12 lead. Instead of going for one, the Redskins tried a two-point conversion but the pass was incomplete.
Pro: Simple math. With either a one- or two-point lead a field goal would give the Falcons the lead. A two pointer makes it so a field goal can only tie.
Con: If the Redskins had that one point when the clock hit 0:00 in regulation they would have won.
Result: While it’s not arguable that the additional point could have made a difference, we don’t know how the rest of the game would have played out. The Falcons would have gone for two after their TD with 24 seconds left. That would have given them a three-point lead, so the situation would have been the same.
Situation: After Bashaud Breeland picked off a Matt Ryan pass and returned it to the Atlanta 21, the Redskins moved to a first and goal at the 10. After that, the play calling seemed to be geared more to burning off some clock and settling for the field goal. Hopkins’ field goal put Redskins up 16-12 with 2:42 to go.
Pro: The Falcons had burned a time out on defense earlier and the clock was the Redskins’ ally at that point. And even if the Redskins did get a touchdown and conversion, it’s still a one-score game with the Falcons able to tie with a touchdown and a field goal.
Con: The Redskins needed every point they could get. The difficulty of getting the TD and the two-point conversion is much greater than just getting a touchdown.
Result: I think virtually any NFL coach would have been happy to burn off some time off the clock and make the other guys need a touchdown to beat you.