NFL Wire News

3 things we learned about the Falcons


The Sports Xchange

ATLANTA — First-year Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team talked about the possibility of having to put in some extra time against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. He was right.

Cornerback Robert Alford returned an interception 59 yards for the winning touchdown in the Falcons’ 25-19 wild overtime win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

The Falcons are 5-0 for the time since 2012, a season in which they had a number of dramatic finishes en route to hosting the NFC Championship Game. Sunday was no different.

Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 153 yards and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown that put the Falcons up 19-16 ahead with 24 seconds to play. It was Freeman’s seventh touchdown in his last two games and came two plays after his apparent touchdown reception was overturned by replay.

With only 17 seconds to work with, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins completed three straight passes on the ensuing drive, marching the Redskins to the Falcons’ 34-yard line to set up Dustin Hopkins’ 52-yard field goal that forced overtime.

Washington took possession first in overtime and was near midfield when Alford jumped in front of a Cousins pass and raced down the sideline for the winning touchdown.

“I thought this was a real clear demonstration of our toughness, our grit and our mindset to finish,” Quinn said. “We knew this might go the distance. We totally expected that. In fact, we even talked about it last night. If we’re asked to go extra, we’ll go extra. We’re always prepared to go as long as we have to.”

Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, held without a reception in the first half, finished with five receptions for 64 yards and recovered a Freeman fumble in the end zone for a touchdown that put the Falcons ahead 12-7 with 9:14 to play.

Washington answered right back, taking advantage of a 43-yard pass interference penalty on Alford that set up running back Matt Jones’ go-ahead touchdown run.

Ryan completed 24 of 42 passes for 254 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Cousins completed 21 of 32 passes for 218 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

What we learned about the Falcons:

1. First-year coach Dan Quinn’s impact is undeniable, especially the secondary. Quinn spent the last two seasons directing the Seattle Seahawks’ elite defense and has quickly transformed what was a liability last year for the Falcons into a standout unit this season. Cornerback Robert Alford had two interceptions, returning the second 59 yards for the winning touchdown in overtime.

2. Running back Devonta Freeman looks like a breakout star, and a case could be made that the second-year back out of Florida State is the MVP of the first five weeks of the season. Freeman rushed for 153 yards and scored his seventh touchdown in his last three games. He’s a quick, one-cut back who appears to be perfectly in tune with the Falcons’ zone blocking scheme.

3. Quarterback Matt Ryan’s competitiveness sometimes gets overlooked by his calm, understated demeanor. But it was certainly on display while leading the Falcons on a fourth-quarter, two-minute drive. Ryan finished off an 8-yard scramble by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow to Washington safety Kyshoen Jarrett on the sideline.


–C Mike Person, a starter, suffered a sprained ankle in the second half and was unable to return.

–WR Leonard Hankerson, who has emerged as a solid No. 2 option alongside Julio Jones, suffered a rib injury in the first half, but was able to return.

–QB Matt Ryan had three turnovers — two interceptions and a fumble — against Washington.

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