LANDOVER, Md. (AP)—The big defensive lineman rumbled 41 yards until he ran out of gas. The rookie running back had plenty of fuel—enough to embarrass a would-be tackler near the end of a 69-yard touchdown run.
No one will ever confuse the running styles of defensive end Chauncey Davis and rookie running back Jerious Norwood, but each made the type of big play a team needs when it’s mired in a four-game losing skid.
“Me, of all people,” said Davis, whose first career interception was also the team’s first in seven games. “I haven’t had a run like that in so long. I was trying to hold on. That’s all we’ve been looking for, is someone to make the big play.”
The Falcons (6-6), who had fallen below .500 for first time in Jim Mora’s three seasons as coach, rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to get back in the serious hunt for a playoff berth. The Redskins (4-8) have lost three of four, having squandered the momentum they gained from last week’s back-to-basics victory over Carolina.
“We definitely needed that pep rally last night,” said safety Lawyer Milloy, who called Atlanta’s players-only meeting. “We probably should have had it a couple of weeks ago, but it’s not too late. We’re just blessed that the league is so equal competitively that we still have a shot. It was at a point where the players of this team, the leaders of this team, needed to take some ownership.
“The coaches can’t catch the ball for you. The coaches can’t tell you to stay deep when you have a deep zone. That was the premise of the conversation.”
Milloy backed up his words by making the hit that disrupted Jason Campbell’s throw as the Redskins were driving deep in Atlanta territory in the third quarter with a 14-10 lead. The ball floated to Davis, whose return set up the 22-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Michael Jenkins that put the Falcons ahead for good.
Norwood sealed the win in the fourth quarter with his long scamper in which he broke a tackle and left cornerback Carlos Rogers spinning in both directions over the final 10 yards. It was Norwood’s second touchdown run—the other was a 78-yard score vs. Arizona.
“You need your playmakers to make plays, your superstars to be superstars,” coach Jim Mora said.
The NFL’s leading rushing team ran for 256 yards, led by Norwood (107), Warrick Dunn (87) and Vick (59). Vick, fined after making an obscene gesture to fans following last week’s loss to New Orleans, also threw two touchdown passes and went 8-for-16 for 122 yards. His only noteworthy hand movements were fist pumps, a touchdown signal with both index fingers, and the grabbing of his right hamstring after he came up gimpy and had to leave for one play in the fourth quarter.
“I’ll be all right,” Vick said. “You know me.”
Vick, by the way, appeared to take Milloy’s message about player leadership literally on the touchdown pass to Jenkins.
“He actually wasn’t even in the read. Sometimes you’ve got to overcome coaching,” Vick said. “I told him before the play to make sure he ran his route to win, and he did. Nobody on the field knew what I was going to do but me and him, so it kind of works out that way.”
Campbell, making his third start for the Redskins, completed 18 of 38 passes for 218 yards, and the interception by Davis was his first real blunder as an NFL quarterback.
“We go all the way down the field there—that was a frustrating drive for us,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “There’s certainly a lot of things there Jason would like to have back. Today was a tough day for him. He’s out there going through some of this for the first time.”
Ladell Betts ran for a career-high 155 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. He has back-to-back 100-yard games for the first time in his career.
The Redskins ran the ball effectively to take a two-touchdown lead, but the Falcons started to turn the momentum in the second quarter with a drive that included a 46-yard pass to tight end Alge Crumpler and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Crumpler. Redskins third-string safety Vernon Fox, starting because of a hamstring injury to Troy Vincent, was victimized on both plays.
“They played so physical,” Washington defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “We couldn’t stop those guys all day.”
Gibbs cut his right hand trying to go through a door in the locker room area after the game. He dabbed at the blood with a towel during his postgame news conference. … Shaun Suisham, signed from the practice squad Saturday, handled all of the Redskins’ kicking duties. He missed his only field-goal attempt, a 50-yarder. … T.J. Duckett, traded by Atlanta to Washington during training camp, had four carries for 9 yards.