A Robert Alford pick-six in the opening minutes of overtime saw the Atlanta Falcons go to 5-0 for only the second time in the franchise's 50 year history, as the Falcons beat the Washington Redskins 25-19.
The Atlanta Falcons have seen a bit of everything so far this season from blowing teams out to late game heroics and against the Washington Redskins, the Falcons can add an overtime win to their list.
A defensive battle in the opening half saw the Falcons defense dominate the Redskins offense and the Falcons offense unable to get any consistency with the ball.
Thanks to an interception and a fumble from usually reliable quarterback Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons were never able to really threaten the Washington defense during the first half. Plus with Julio Jones nursing a hamstring injury in a game which saw him have five receptions for 67 yards and seemingly new second choice receiver Leonard Hankerson missing parts of the game with a rib injury, Washington’s banged up secondary were able to perform far better than they were ever expected to.
The Redskins led at halftime 7-3 courtesy of a touchdown from tight end Derek Carrier and two missed field goals from Matt Bryant, a man who before this had made his last 22 kicks if you combine extra points and field goals.
The second half wasn’t brimming with talented plays and it saw Ryan throw yet another pick making it two on the night, before the game he had only two so far that season.
After a 28 yard field goal from Bryant towards the end of the third quarter which saw the score shortened to 7-6 to the road team, the game came to life in the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter saw second year running back Devonta Freeman who finished the night with 153 yards on 27 carries and 44 yards on seven receptions, come to life as he continued to rip off play after play. He dragged the struggling Falcons offense on the night towards victory with his ability to constantly pick up first downs when needed.
Ironically, however Freeman was the man who brought about the Atlanta Falcons first touchdown of the night, but in unusual circumstances. On 1st and goal and the score at 7-6 the ball was handed off to Devonta Freeman and all expected him to punch it home, however the ball was stripped from his grasp and when it seemed nothing was going to go for the Falcons it in fact did. The ball took a wicked bounce and bobbled straight towards Julio Jones in the end zone who only had to dive on the loose ball.
The Redskins were straight back into the game however courtesy of a controversial pass interference call on eventual match winner Alford. It is the type of call where a Falcons fan will insist it was harsh whereas a Redskins fan will insist it was a spot on penalty. A visibly distraught and angered Alford was seen getting a team talk from his coach on the sideline, telling him to make up for it with one big play. He wasn’t on the field however when running back Jones jogged in from two yards.
Now with just minutes remaining ‘Matty Ice’ drove his side down the field in his more common cool and collected fashion and the drive was capped off by what appeared to be a touchdown winning score by Freeman.
Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins however disagreed with this and slotted over a 52 yard field goal as time expired to take the teams to overtime.
It was in overtime that Alford was able to do exactly what his coach instructed him to and make a play to win the game. Playing man to man on receiver Ryan Grant, Robert Alford took his chance after the receiver slipped to the ground and snatched his second pick of the night. But this time the young corner back looked up and saw an empty field in front of him and returned the pick for a 59 yard game winner.
The Falcons showed grit and team spirit when they weren’t playing at their best, whereas the Redskins faltered at the very wrong moment. The Falcons move to 5-0 and face the 1-4 New Orleans Saints on Thursday night in what promises to be a heated NFC South clash, whereas the Redskins move to 2-3 and move onto the 3-1 Jets for a vital game.