Takeaways: Critical mistakes cost Falcons in 19-13 loss to Commanders

The Atlanta Falcons (5-7) came up just short in Sunday’s 19-13 loss to the Washington Commanders (7-5). Trailing by six with two minutes left, the Falcons methodically drove into the red zone before a tipped pass was intercepted by the Commanders on the goal line.

Atlanta would have had one final chance with about 30 seconds left, but a penalty on Washington’s ensuing punt ended the game. Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s game.

Falcons' impressive late drive ends in disaster

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The Falcons appeared to be on the verge of the signature win of Arthur Smith’s tenure as head coach before disaster struck on the final drive. Commanders defensive lineman Daron Payne batted Marcus Mariota’s red-zone pass attempt up into the air and it was picked off DB Kendall Fuller. The interception wasted what was a truly impressive drive up until that point. Mariota made a few nice throws and the Falcons had forced Washington to use all three timeouts before the pick in the final minute.

Penalty on Commanders punt is final nail in Falcons' coffin

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Despite the team’s red-zone interception in the final minute, Atlanta still had all three timeouts left. The defense forced a three-and-out by the Commanders, but LB Ade Ogundeji was flagged for making contact with the punter. The fourth-down penalty gave Washington an automatic first down, and its seventh win of the 2022 season. It was a close call, but if you can’t risk touching the punter in that situation, as incidental and light as it may have been.

Pitts' replacement gets a TD

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Kyle Pitts was placed on the injured reserve list, forcing the Falcons to take a by-committee approach to replacing their star tight end. In Week 12, it was former Titans TE MyCole Pruitt stepping up. Pruitt’s second-quarter touchdown temporarily gave Atlanta a 10-7 lead. Pruitt finished the game with two catches for nine yards and a touchdown.

Defense can't stop Commanders ground game

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The Falcons don’t get out-gained on the ground very often, but the Commanders had their way with Atlanta’s run defense on Sunday. Washington RB Brian Robinson racked up 105 yards on 18 carries, and the team rushed for 176 total rushing yards. Atlanta had a pretty good day on the ground as well, rushing for 167 yards on 5.8 yards per carry

What's next for Atlanta?

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming to town for a Week 13 matchup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Steelers have a rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett and former Georgia star George Pickens at wide receiver. Wins have been hard to come by for Pittsburgh this season, though. The Falcons are likely to be favored over the Steelers (3-7) next Sunday.

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Story originally appeared on Falcons Wire