Falcons edge past Redskins

David Purdum, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- There is plenty of drama surrounding coach Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins these days. It carried over into Sunday's road game at the Atlanta Falcons.
After backup quarterback Kirk Cousins led a scoring drive to pull his team within one point of tying Atlanta, Shanahan elected for a go-ahead two-point conversion instead of an extra point. Cousins' pass was deflected away, allowing the Falcons to escape with a 27-26 win Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Shanahan announced in the middle of the week that he was benching starting quarterback Robert Griffin III and turning to Cousins for the final three games. With Griffin in street clothes, watching from the sidelines, Cousins played well and capped a fourth-quarter scoring drive with a touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 22 seconds to play that cut the Falcons lead to 27-26.
Atlanta defensive back Desmond Trufant deflected away Cousins' pass in the back of the end on the ensuing two-point conversion to secure the Falcons' win.
"I was telling myself that I had to make a big play after the one I gave up," said Trufant, who also had an interception in addition to game-saving pass breakup. "I didn't want to end the game on that note, so I just kept fighting and did what I had to do to help get the win."
Cousins finished 29 of 45 for 381 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We just didn't do enough to win," Cousins said. "Two interceptions that were on me. A fumble that you don't want to have. The failed attempt at a two-point conversion, that was on me. Those are four plays right there that if they go different, it's probably a much better result."
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed 29 of 38 passes for 210 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez in the first quarter.
With only draft positioning at stake, the two disappointing teams committed a comedy of errors in the first half, at one point exchanging fumbles on three consecutive plays. There were five turnovers overall in the first half, including a bad interception by Ryan that led to Kai Forbath's second field goal and a 20-17 Redskins lead at intermission.
"There was a stretch there early in the first half, where we really had some issues with some explosive plays," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It will be a great learning experience for our young players that were out there playing, but we found a way to win the ball game."
The Redskins (3-11) fell behind quickly, 14-0, and were in danger of a complete meltdown, before Cousins mounted a comeback. Cousins completed 11 of 17 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half. Griffin averaged 246 passing yards per game in his 13 starts.
Twice the Falcons (4-10) failed to score touchdowns on first-and-goal opportunities from inside the Washington 5-yard line. In the first half, they had to settle for a Matt Bryant field goal. Early in the third quarter, they came away with nothing, after running back Steven Jackson was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from 1-yard line.
Jackson got another chance two plays later, after Falcons safety William Moore picked off Cousins and returned it to the Washington 2-yard line. Jackson scored his second touchdown of the game on his next carry, putting the Falcons up 24-20. They took that lead into the fourth quarter.
Shanahan declined to comment on his job status.
"I'm not going to talk about that," Shanahan said. "I'll talk about football and about the Cowboys and the Giants."
Notes: Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez became the fifth player in NFL history to reach 15,000 receiving yards in NFL history. He joins WRs Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Isaac Bruce as the only players to reach the milestone. Gonzalez received a standing ovation from the Georgia Dome crowd, after the announcement of his accomplishment. ... Washington QB Kirk Cousins made his second career start and second appearance against the Falcons. The fourth-round pick out of Michigan State stepped in for Robert Griffin III last season against the Falcons, after Griffin was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Cousins completed 5 of 9 passes for 111 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 24-17 home loss to Atlanta. ... Falcons S Thomas DeCoud (concussion) was inactive. ... LB Sean Weatherspoon injured his knee and did not return to the game. ... The Redskins finished 3-13 in 1994, their worst season mark in 50 years.

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