Sunday’s matchup certainly was not what Atlanta fans were expecting come kickoff time. The Falcons (4-0) looked to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2012 against the Redskins (2-2), a team struggling to find their identity.
It was a slow start for the Atlanta offense that struggled for most of the day. However, a terrific team defensive performance allowed for the Falcons to hang in the game until the very end. After a scoreless first quarter, Washington got on the board on a 7-yard TD pass to Derek Carrier. Atlanta answered with a 12 play, 56 yard drive that resulted in a field goal on their next possession.
To add to the unusual nature of this game, Matt Bryant missed not one, but two field goals with the Falcons trailing. The first miss was a 38-yard kick that struck the right upright to end the half. The second came on the Falcons’ first possession of the second half, but this time it was the left upright that left the Falcons kicker hanging his head. Bryant was a perfect 6 for 6 on field goal attempts coming into the game and had only missed 6 total field goals over the last 3 seasons combined (59 for 65).
Bryant hit a 28-yard field goal to cut the lead to one with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter. Atlanta took their first lead of the game on a Devonta Freeman run, in which he fumbled the ball short of the goal line and Julio Jones covered it up for the touchdown. Atlanta opted to go for two but failed.
The Redskins offense answered quickly after being extremely quiet since their last touchdown drive. A 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Jones that was set up by a 43-yard pass interference penalty on Robert Alford capped off a 3 play 80-yard drive. Washington went for two in an attempt to stretch their lead to 3 but also failed.
A Washington field goal made it 16-12 with 2:38 remaining in the fourth quarter. Ryan, who had already turned the ball over three times in the game, was given an opportunity to do what he does best and he did not disappoint. He led the Falcons down the field with key passes to Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones. On a 3rd and 2 play from the Falcons 13, Ryan hooked up with Freeman for what appeared to be the go ahead touchdown. The play was reviewed and reversed after determining Freeman did not control the ball as he went to the ground. The reversal was questionable to say the least, and makes me wonder what a catch is now in the NFL.
The reversal set up a 4th and 2 play where Ryan found Roddy White for the first down. The drive was then finished off by a Devonta Freeman 6-yard TD run with 24 seconds remaining. Freeman finished the day with 27 carries and 153 yard on the ground.
However, the game was not over. Kirk Cousins completed 3 passes to get the Redskins into manageable field goal range to tie the game. Dustin Hopkins nailed a 52 yarder to tie the game and send the game into OT at 19 a piece.
The Redskins won the toss in overtime and opted to receive. After picking up a first down to get close to midfield, Cousins dropped back to pass, as the pressure almost got to him, he floated a pass that Robert Alford intercepted near the sideline and returned 59 yards for the game winning touchdown. The interception was Alford’s second of the game. Alford has put together great performances in back to back weeks, and it could be a sign of great things to come for the Atlanta defense. This is just the second time in Falcons franchise history they have started 5-0.