As the final whistle went on Sunday, the Redskins had staked a 2 and 0 mark in the standings for the first time since the season of their last Super Bowl victory, 1991. By no means does this team look Super Bowl bound yet, but they rallied from a 17-0 deficit to post their second consecutive impressive victory.
For the first 15-20 minutes of the game, it looked very much like not only were the Redskins going to lose the game, they were going to lose some key players too. Laveranues Coles was injured early when his head violently collided with a Falcon tackler's knee. Coles was down on the field for quite some time and appeared to be in a fair amount of discomfort. But he would return, and return strong.
Patrick Ramsey was also shaken up amidst a first quarter shellacking that the Redskins and the offensive line will have no problem soon forgetting. Ramsey was getting murdered as the Falcons got shot after shot at him by varying blitz packages and confusing the Redskins. In all, Ramsey would be sacked 5 times in the first half alone. He fumbled the ball twice including one that Ed Jasper of the Falcons recovered on the Washington 1-yard line. That set up the T.J. Duckett TD (his second of the game), that gave the Falcons their 17-0 advantage. Ramsey would be sacked again on the next series and Pat Kearney jumped on it on the Redskins 25-yard line to give the Falcons their second consecutive possession deep in Washington territory. But the defense held strong, and Atlanta missed a 45-yard field goal.
And then the young sophomore from Tulane showed the people from Atlanta what Redskins fans have already witnessed -- his toughness.
Despite the onslaught that he had already withstood, Ramsey walked out on to the field on the next possession and drove the Redskins 65 yards in 5 plays and in just 1:42. Ladell Betts capped off the drive with a nice 13-yard TD run, and the Redskins were back in the game down just 17-7. The momentum had shifted.
On the Falcons' next possession, a Doug Johnson (16 of 36 for 197 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) pass was picked off by Ifeanyi Ohalete and returned all the way back to Atlanta's 1-yard line. Rock Cartwright was unsuccessful twice on 1 yard runs up the middle, so he ran the third one off the right end for a touchdown, and the Redskins were within three at 17-14.
But the momentum shifted again. Following Rock's TD run, John Hall's kickoff was unceremoniously returned 52 yards to give Atlanta great field position at the Redskins 39-yard line. Two Warrick Dunn runs for 37 yards put the Falcons in scoring position again, and a Johnson to Alge Crumpler TD pass had the Birds up by two scores once again 24-14.
After a short possession and punt each, Washington got the ball back at their 30-yard line with just 0:56 to go in the half. Calm, collected, and battered, Ramsey put together three consecutive out-of-bounds passes to get the Redskins to the Atlanta 34 in just 19 seconds. But the drive stalled and the Redskins could get no closer. In fact, a Ramsey sack lost 2 more yards and set John Hall up for a 54 yard FG attempt with just 12 seconds to go. Despite dropping an earlier 51 yard attempt short, Hall banged it through the uprights for his second 50+ yarder in as many weeks, and the Redskins squeaked into half-time down just 24-17.
Obviously adjustments were made at the half, because the Redskins came out and dominated the third quarter. Washington received the ball, marched 76 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown, and suddenly it was a tie ball game. Ramsey had considerably more time to throw, and Rod Gardner scored the TD, on a nice 21-yard pass from Ramsey. Gardner had a great day, overshadowed only because of the monstrous day that Coles put up. All Gardner did was catch 9 passes for 118 yards and the touchdown.
Both defenses dug in their heels for a couple of drives, and then Patrick Johnson downed a Bryan Barker punt inside the 5-yard line to give the Falcons terrible field position. Two plays later Doug Johnson dropped back on 2nd and 9 and was dropped by Jessie Armstead in the end zone for a safety. It was Armstead's first career safety, and it gave the Redskins their first lead of the day 26-24 with just 0:20 remaining in the third.
The free kick after the safety gave the ball back to the Redskins at their 29-yard line. They needed just 5 plays to cover 72 yards, and scored on another nice Ramsey/Coles hook-up, this one for 19 yards. Despite being down by 17, Washington had come all the way back and had a 33-24 lead with just over 12 minutes to go.
That would be all they would need. Withstanding a late surge by the Birds that got them to within two at 33-31, the Redskins persevered.
Once again defensive co-ordinator George Edwards called a great game as the defense posted another strong performance. They held the Falcons to just 283 total yards, which may not be as impressive as the 158 that they allowed last week, but will still give you a good chance at winning a lot of games. They allowed just 7 yards rushing in the entire second half. Armstead lead the way today, registering perhaps his best game as a Redskin. His 6 tackles were second only to Lavar Arrington's 7 tackles, but he also had two sacks including the one that resulted in a safety. Peppi Zellner also had a sack and pressured the Falcons QB on several other occasions.
The secondary had a great game. Ohalete was strong with his interception and 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 assisted) and Champ Bailey obviously wants to get paid! The Falcons actually threw at him a few times, but all Bailey did was limit one of the league's premiere receivers, Peerless Price, to just 28 yards receiving on 2 catches. Ouch.
While Bruce Smith may not have a profound effect on the game statistically, he showed his leadership and heart when he rallied the team in the second quarter. He was pacing the sideline screaming at players and trying to get them jacked up, when they were getting beat.
But despite the play of the defense, credit for this win belongs with the offense. Career days by Ramsey and Coles were what allowed the Redskins to make use of the defense's rigidity in the second half. Coles finished with 11 catches for 180 yards. "Whenever things aren't going well, I want to be the guy who steps up and makes things happen," Coles said. Ramsey finished a stunning 25 of 39 for 356 yards with 2 TD's.
Both got beat up, both came back, both set personal bests, and both showed true grit. That's why this week... losing is for the Birds.