Published October 08, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. – While Matt Ryan was on the field leading another late comeback, Robert Griffin III was hidden from view, getting treatment for a concussion that changed the game.
The Atlanta Falcons are off to the best start in franchise history and are the only 5-0 team in the NFC, with Ryan blazing the trail with consecutive come-from-behind, fourth-quarter wins.
The defense is chipping in as well, knocking the Washington Redskins' No. 2 overall draft pick from the game in the third quarter Sunday in a 24-17 victory.
"This team's got a whole different attitude about going out there," Atlanta receiver Roddy White said. "And expecting to win."
A week after pulling out a two-point win over the Carolina Panthers, Ryan and the offense didn't have their usual fluid passing game — they scored just seven points through three quarters — but the early season MVP candidate cobbled together a trio of scoring drives in the fourth.
Julio Jones dexterously got both feet inbounds for an 18-yard catch just beyond the pylon. Matt Bryant stayed perfect on the year with a 53-yard field goal. Michael Turner ran 13 yards for the go-ahead score with 2:46 to play. The defense gave up a long touchdown pass by Griffin's replacement, Kirk Cousins, but redeemed itself by intercepting the fourth-round draft pick twice in the final two minutes.
But the play of the game was made by Sean Weatherspoon, who made the hit that took Griffin out. Scrambling on third-and-goal, Griffin fell forward near the sideline. His helmet slammed into Weatherspoon's upper body, an undisputed clean hit.
"It felt like a good play," Weatherspoon said. "I think it gave us a little energy."
Once he got to the sideline, Griffin didn't know the score or the quarter, according to coach Mike Shanahan. Team spokesman Tony Wyllie said the Heisman Trophy winner was examined by an independent neurologist before being sent home and will be evaluated again Monday. Griffin also got a cut on his chin.
"I'm ok and I think after all the testing I will play next week," Griffin tweeted about three hours after the game.
It was an ironic wound for the Redskins (2-3), losers of eight straight home games. There had been abundant concern that Griffin was susceptible to injury when he was taking hard hits while running option plays frequently in his first three games.
But Shanahan scaled back the option over the last two week. Griffin didn't have a designed run play Sunday. He ended up getting hurt while on the run because he couldn't find an open receiver — something that every quarterback does.
"He usually does a great job extending the play and making a play," Shanahan said. "And it's unfortunate what happened."
The Falcons owned the rest of the game, except for one miscommunication on defense that allowed Cousins to find Santana Moss for a 77-yard touchdown pass. Take away that play, and the rookie from Michigan State threw for just 34 yards and two interceptions.
"With Robert not being in there, definitely allowed them to change up their scheme," said Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who ran 115 yards on 18 carries. "They were flying downhill a lot faster. It definitely affected our running game. Once he wasn't in anymore, they were just able to pin their ears back."
Ryan finished with 34 completions on 52 attempts for 345 yards with two touchdowns and one interception — a screen pass picked off by Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and run back 28 yards for the game's first score. Ryan also fumbled away a snap, Atlanta's first lost fumble of the season.
Tony Gonzalez caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Jones had 10 receptions for 94 yards. White snagged four passes for 68 yards. Turner ran for 67 yards on 18 carries. Impressive numbers — until you remember that Washington has one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
Still, it was enough.
"I don't know why you want to ask me any questions," White joked when he saw reporters at his locker. "We stunk it up in early in the game."
Notes: Washington K Billy Cundiff — already on thin ice after missing three field goals the previous week — was wide right from 31 yards in the second quarter. He made a 23-yarder on the play after Griffin was injured. ... Dunta Robinson and Thomas DeCoud had the fourth-quarter interceptions for the Falcons. ... Atlanta injuries: RB Antone Smith (hamstring) and LB Stephen Nicholas (ankle).
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