Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' Week 5 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
1. The Redskins' defense earned their first interception of the season early in the first quarter on a play by Trenton Robinson.
And what a timely play it was.
After three-and-out on the Redskins' opening possession, the Falcons were getting yardage in huge chunks in their first offensive opportunity.
On 1st and 10 from the Atlanta 35, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed a 40-yard pass to tight end Jacob Tamme to the Washington 40-yard line. But two plays later – including a rare drop by wide receiver Julio Jones – Robinson jumped in front of a pass intended for Jones at the Redskins' 17-yard line.
For Robinson, the interception was the second of the Michigan State product's career. He earned his first pick last season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was also the Falcons' first interception in 116 pass attempts.
The play also continued an impressive streak for the Redskins' defense: the opposing team is yet to score on its first drive all season.
Of course, the team's second interception of the season meant a little more: Bashaud Breeland picked off Ryan with a little more than five minutes remaining to give his team the ball deep in Atlanta territory.
2. Early pressure from the Redskins' defense led to the team's first score of the day.
The Falcons came into the game having allowed just six sacks all season, ranking tied for seventh-fewest in the league. They had also given up just 18 total quarterback hits through four games.
But the strength of the Redskins' defense is up front, and they were able to impose their will on Atlanta's second possession of the game, highlighted by a sack by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan that moved him into fifth place on the team's all-time sacks list. His 40.5 sacks are a half-sack better than former Redskins' linebacker Brian Orakpo's 40 career sacks from 2010 to 2014.
The Falcons were forced to punt, leading to another methodical drive for Kirk Cousins and the Redskins' offense. After 12 plays, 67 yards and 6:47 off the clock, Cousins – who had all day – found tight end Derek Carrier in the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
The key play of the drive came a couple plays earlier, however, when Washington faced a 4th and 1 from the Atlanta 10-yard line. Instead of going for the sure three points via field goal, however, head coach Jay Gruden elected to go for it. Cousins earned the one yard the team needed on a quarterback sneak to set up the 1st and Goal from the 9.
This was a classic case of good, high-pressure defense helping the offense, and the offense helping right back by putting together a long drive to keep its own defense – and Atlanta's offense – on the sideline.
3. Chris Baker continued his impressive 2015 season with a strip-sack on Ryan, and another forced fumble later in the game.
After getting a field goal to respond to the Redskins' touchdown, the Falcons seemed to have a little momentum working their way late in the second quarter.
Check out these top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 5 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons Oct. 11, 2015, at the Georgia Dome.
They converted a huge third down conversion on a 13-yard pass play to former Redskins receiver Nick Williams to the Washington 23-yard line, and seemed poised to, at the very least, cut the Redskins' lead to one point with a field goal by halftime – if not take the lead on a touchdown.
But Baker had other plans. Three plays later, he, along with defensive end Jason Hatcher, got all up in Ryan's face. Baker popped the ball out of Ryan's grip, and it was recovered by linebacker Will Compton at the Washington 13-yard line.
The play was challenged by Atlanta, who believed Ryan was down before the fumble, but the officials concluded it would stand.
It was another impressive play for Baker, who earned his third sack in two games. The Hampton product also forced another fumble in the fourth quarter that, unfortunately, was recovered in the end zone by Julio Jones to give the Falcons their go-ahead score.
Baker had two sacks last week in a winning effort against the Philadelphia Eagles, and continues his ascent as one of the more underrated players on this Washington defense.
4. The Redskins couldn't seem to capitalize on key Falcons mistakes on Sunday.
Missed field goals and turnovers could've – and should've – resulted in several more points for the Redskins at the Georgia Dome.
But with each Atlanta mistake, Washington's offense and special teams just couldn't take advantage.
Robinson had a first-quarter interception for the Redskins, but their offense would only get to their 44 before being forced to punt.
Baker had the second-quarter strip sack, but the Redskins would get no further than their own 18-yard line before being forced into another punt.
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant missed a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter – his second miss of the game – but Dustin Hopkins' 53-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing drive went wide right.
With each opportunity, the Redskins had a chance to extend their 7-3 lead. At most, they could've gone up 28-3, but even with at least one more touchdown – or even a field goal – the Falcons would've had much more ground to make up.
Capitalizing on the other team's mistakes hasn't exactly been a forte for the Redskins the past few seasons. Improving in this area will help them become the more complete product they hope to consistently put out on the field week in and week out.
5. The Redskins' run defense, which has been so solid all season, couldn't quite find an answer for Falcons' running back Devonta Freeman.
Coming into Sunday's game, the Redskins' ranked second in the NFL in rushing defense at 78 rushing yards allowed per game. They had yet to allow 100 total yards rushing in a game, let alone an 100-yard rusher.
But that streak came to an end on Sunday thanks to Freeman, who caused problems all afternoon for the Washington defensive front.
When all was said and done, Freeman had gained 153 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
With a big game against the New York Jets next Sunday – who came into Sunday's action ninth in the NFL in rushing at 127.2 yards per game – you can bet Joe Barry and the Washington defense will take a good, hard look at this film to seal up those holes and avoid a repeat performance at MetLife Stadium.