Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's Week 5 game against the Falcons at FedExField:
The Redskins came into today riding a seven-game home losing streak, tops in the league and approaching an NFL record. The task didn't get any easier, as the Falcons brought their undefeated record and inclement weather to FedExField.
Before kickoff, it appeared the Redskins would need to lean heavily on Alfred Morris and the running game. The Redskins succeeded in running the ball, but needed both rookie quarterbacks to put themselves in a position to win late.
Redskins running back Alfred Morris busted off a 16-yard end-around run on the second drive of the game, setting the stage for a huge rushing performance for the day. Morris had his first career 100-yard rushing performance last week, and backed it up with a second today. He is the first Redskins running back to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances since Evan Royster in Weeks 16 and 17 last season.
PLAY OF THE GAME
With 12:24 remaining in the game, backup quarterback Kirk Cousins found veteran receiver Santana Moss wide open for a 77-yard catch and run touchdown to put the Redskins back on top. This was Moss's 499th reception as a member of the Redskins, and the second-longest reception of his career. The Falcons would come back to tie the game, but the play gave the Redskins a shot of momentum that they sorely needed.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Given the sloppy conditions, running back Alfred Morris was a focal point again this week, and did not disappoint. After adding his first positive reception for 20 yards, Morris rumbled for 86 yards in the first half and 115 yards overall. He was unable to find the end zone, but kept the Redskins offense on the field and gave them a chance to win.
Redskins linebacker Perry Riley took over the spot next to London Fletcher midway through last season, bringing increased athleticism up the middle. Today, in just his 13th career start, Riley recovered his third career fumble and second of the season. Riley also had a big third-down stop on a Gonzalez reception inside the Falcons' 10-yard line, forcing a punt.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Redskins defense came out firing on all cylinders, limiting the Falcons' No. 3 ranked offense to seven points in the first half. The Falcons relied heavily on short-yardage passing early, and the Redskins defenders swarmed to the ball, coming up with several third-and-short stops. The defense also created two turnovers, scored a touchdown and limited one of the NFL's top offenses to 24 points.
--Redskins receiver Santana Moss continues to have a remarkable career in Washington, tallying 80 yards today on just two receptions, including his longest reception (77) since 2005. As a member of the Redskins, Moss now has 500 receptions and 6,903 yards.
-- With the game knotted at zero, Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan picked off an open-field pass from quarterback Matt Ryan, and raced 28 yards untouched to the end zone. This was the second pick-six of Kerrigan's career, following his rookie debut last year against the Giants. This was also the third defensive touchdown of the season, the most by any Redskins squad since 1999, when Champ Bailey, Dan Wilkinson and Shawn Barber had defensive scores.
--Tight end Fred Davis continued to assert himself on offense, leading the Redskin in receiving for most of the game with five catches for 54 yards. This makes 224 receiving yards in the last three weeks, after a relatively slow start to his season.
-- Despite missing both of the top rushers from last season, the Redskins rushing game has improved this season, behind the steady production of Alfred Morris and Ryan Grant. Morris rushed for his second-consecutive 100-yard game today, and Grant contributed in reserve. Last year at this time, Morris was at Florida Atlantic University, and Grant was in Green Bay.
--Mother Nature: Redskins legend Joe Gibbs once referred to adverse weather conditions as "Redskins Weather," a mantra that held true today. Taking the Falcons out of the dome interrupted the timing of the high-flying offense, forcing them to be a more physical team. Even though the Redskins ultimately lost the game, the Falcons were unable to turn the game into a track meet.
--Redskins pass protection had another fine performance this week, limiting the Falcons' pass rush to two sacks, including a coverage sack on Griffin III that should have been avoided by the quarterback. The offensive line deserves credit for finding their stride after a disastrous performance two weeks ago. The Redskins continue to boast one of the NFL's top rushing offenses as well.
--Punter Sav Rocca continues to help the Redskins in the battle for field position, punting five times for a 42.5-yard average, with three punts downed inside the 20. His 46.1-yard average for the season is the best of his career by nearly three yards per punt.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--The Redskins managed to limit Julio Jones and Roddy White to modest games, but tight end Tony Gonzalez gashed the secondary for 13 catches and 123 yards. Granted, Gonzalez is the greatest receiving tight end of all time, but the secondary was helpless against him today. If the Redskins can't solve their problems against the tight end, opposing offenses will game-plan for this moving forward.
--The Redskins kicking situation has deteriorated quickly this season, with Cundiff missing four-of-five kicks, sandwiched around his game-winning field goal in Tampa Bay. In a game that turned into a defensive struggle, his miss from 31 yards hurt the team much worse than just three points.
--After not turning the ball over in last week's victory, a second Redskins' interception from Kirk Cousins ultimately ended today's game in defeat. Cousins did a fine job in reserve today, throwing for 111 yards and a 97.2 passer rating, but had little margin for error.
The Redskins stay at FedExField again next week, hosting the Minnesota Vikings for third year in a row. The Vikings are led by Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, two dangerous playmakers that can take over a game. The Redskins are winless against the Vikings in the last two contests, and look to beat the Vikings at home for the first time since 2004.
The Redskins have been in a position to win each of their five games this season, and today's loss was no exception. Facing the NFC's only undefeated team, the Redskins nearly pulled off the upset today, and fell just short in adverse conditions.
The bigger concern moving forward is the health and protection of Robert Griffin III, who suffered a mild concussion in today's loss. The playbook changes with Kirk Cousins or Rex Grossman in the game, and the Redskins will need to determine early if he will be available for next week's game. In the long-term, Griffin III will need to protect himself better, learning to preserve his body and return to the huddle for another play. Look for that to be an increased emphasis by the Redskins coaching staff moving forward.
This was a disappointing loss in a winnable game, but the Redskins performed well and continued to improve today. Look for the Redskins to match up well against the Vikings next week, as they go for their first win at home since Week 2 of the 2011 season.