Falcons stay unbeaten after topping Redskins

David Elfin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Atlanta Falcons arrived at FedEx Field as the NFC's only unbeaten team and left with that same distinction.
They knocked Washington Redskins hot-shot rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III out of the game. They overcame two turnovers to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but gave it back before rallying to beat the Redskins 24-17 on Michael Turner's 13-yard run up the middle with 2:46 remaining.
Dunta Robinson's interception of rookie backup Kirk Cousins' pass for Fred Davis 53 seconds later sealed the triumph that gave Atlanta its first 5-0 start.
"Games are going to be close in this league and you have to win the close ones," said Atlanta coach Mike Smith, whose unbeaten NFC South front-runner has won three of its five games by no more than a touchdown.
All five of Washington's games have been decided by a score, but the Redskins are 2-3.
The Falcons left Santana Moss uncovered with 12:23 left and the veteran receiver turned a throw over the middle from Cousins into a 77-yard touchdown that gave Washington a three-point edge. However, quarterback Matt Ryan marched the Falcons 45 yards in nine plays to set up Matt Bryant's 53-yard field goal that made it 17-17 with 7:42 to go.
Moss' touchdown came just 1:01 after a gorgeous, 18-yard scoring toss from Ryan to receiver Julio Jones, with Washington cornerback Josh Wilson in tight coverage, had given Atlanta a 14-10 lead.
The pass to Moss was just the second for Cousins after he replaced Griffin, who exited after suffering a bloody lip and a mild concussion on a sack by linebacker Sean Witherspoon at the Atlanta 5 with 6:00 left in the third quarter.
"It was just one of those bang-bang plays," Weatherspoon said.
"He wasn't really sure what the score was, what quarter it was," said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, adding that although Griffin, who was examined by an independent neurologist, felt better after the game. H will follow the NFL's concussion protocol this week.
Griffin, who came in as the NFC's second-leading passer behind Ryan, completed 10 of 15 passes for just 91 yards and ran once for 7 yards. The sack preceded a 23-yard field goal by Washington's Billy Cundiff, who had missed a 31-yard try in the second quarter, his fourth errant kick in the past two games.
"Sickening is a good way to put it," Cundiff said about missing an attempt that Shanahan labeled a "chip shot."
The only score of the first 29 minutes came on an interception by Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who picked off Ryan's screen for Harry Douglas and sprinted 28 yards to give Washington a 7-0 lead with 10:11 to go in the first quarter.
After Redskins inside linebacker Perry Riley recovered a botched snap at the Washington 32-yard line with 4:56 left in the second quarter, Alfred Morris raced 20 yards with a screen from Griffin. The running back powered for 29 yards to the Atlanta 19 on the next play, but the drive stalled and Cundiff missed the field goal attempt.
"We were our own worst enemy in the first half," said Smith, whose offense gained 220 yards before it finally scored.
Given the reprieve, the Falcons finally managed to sustain a scoring drive. Passes to Roddy White and Douglas gained 35 yards. After a trio of short throws to Jones put Atlanta on the Washington 22 with 44 seconds to go in the half, Ryan hit tight end Tony Gonzalez for 21. On the next snap, the 36-year-old cinch Hall of Famer beat reserve linebacker Lorenzo Alexander for the game-tying touchdown.
Notes: Gonzalez finished with 13 catches for 123 yards. ... Ryan was 34 of 52 for 345 yards. ... Morris gained 100 yards for the second straight week, winding up with 115 yards on 18 carries. ... Bryant has made all 10 of his field goal attempts this season. ... Kerrigan's touchdown was his second in 21 career games and the third for Washington's defense in five games this season. ... The Redskins haven't scored more often on defense since 1999, the last year that they won the NFC East. ... Moss' second catch of the day made him the fourth to catch 500 passes for Washington.

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