Atlanta Falcons improve to 5-0 for first time in team history

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is hit by Atlanta Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi (96) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (95) during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is hit by Atlanta Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi (96) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (95) during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

LANDOVER, Md. — Most of the current Falcons aren’t really into historical relevance.

But center Todd McClure, who’s been with the team since 1999, can appreciate how far the franchise has come.

With a less-than-stellar 24-17 victory over the Washington Redskins on a rainy Sunday, the Falcons reached the 5-0 mark to open the season for the first time since they began play in 1966.

“This,” McClure said, “is pretty special.”

It was just a road win in October, but somewhere old Norb Hecker and other ghosts of Falcons’ hard-luck past were smiling.

“The best thing about it is that we are not playing our best football and we’re 5-0,” McClure said. “This team is much better than what we’ve played thus far. It’s easy to make corrections when you’re 5-0. We have a lot of room for improvement.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who leaned heavily on tight end Tony Gonzalez all day, sees a season with an industrious start but also with 11 games yet to play.

“It is great start for us. It really is,” Ryan said, who threw for 345 yards (34-of-52) but had an interception returned for a touchdown. “At this point you can’t really worry about what is going on in the history of our organization, but we have put ourselves right where we need to be five games into it.”

The Falcons previously had 4-0 starts in 2004 and 1986. In 2004, the team went on to play in the NFC title game. In 1986, they struggled and finished 7-8-1.

For the second straight Sunday, the Falcons needed a fourth-quarter rally to pull out the victory. The Redskins, who dropped to 2-3, may have lost their star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to the league’s concussion protocol program, courtesy of a big thump in the third quarter from Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

The Falcons trailed 10-7 entering the fourth quarter but wide receiver Julio Jones put them ahead after hauling down an 18-yard touchdown pass.

But the defense quickly squandered the lead. On a third-and-12, rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins, Griffin’s back-up, tossed a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss to put the Redskins back ahead, 17-14.

Smith said the coverage by the secondary “was absolutely blown.”

The Falcons’ ensuing drive stalled, but kicker Matt Bryant, who switched to longer spikes for the wet field, made a 53-yard field goal to tie the game with 7:42 left.

After the defense held the Redskins to a three-and-out, Ryan drove the offense down for the winning score, a 13-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner culminating a six-play drive with 2:46 to play.

The defense closed out the game with two interceptions by Dunta Robinson and Thomas DeCoud.

Griffin was taken to the locker room after Weatherspoon knocked him out of the game with a fierce shot along the sideline during Washington’s second possession of the second half. Griffin’s head appear to snap back into defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux’s back.

“He wasn’t sure what quarter it was,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “At that time, when he wasn’t really sure what the score was or what quarter it was, we knew he had a mild concussion.”

Griffin retired to the Redskins’ locker room under his own power.

Washington slowed the Falcons by playing a lot of zone coverage, which provided deep help on receivers Roddy White and Jones.

That left the middle of the field to Gonzalez. He accumulated 13 catches for 123 yards and a key touchdown in the second quarter.

He finished one pass shy of his career high. He caught 14 passes against San Diego when he was with Kansas City on Jan. 2, 2005.

“When you have guys like Roddy and Julio outside, you saw anytime that we threw the ball deep, there were two or three guys around them,” Gonzalez said. “That means I’m getting man-to-man coverage underneath. I’ve said that for most of my career, if I can get man-to-man coverage, I should be able to get open most of the time.”

For most of this dreary day, he was open. The former Cal-Berkeley basketball player looked like he was posting up in the paint on a couple of his grabs.

“I’ve done this before,” Gonzalez said. “It’s part of the game as far as I’m concerned. I’m just glad I could help out.”

Washington became the latest team forced to make a defensive choice on the Falcons’ potent offense. Last week, Carolina elected to double-cover Jones and Gonzalez, allowing White to break loose for eight catches, 169 yards and two touchdowns.

The biggest issue is providing Ryan enough time to find the right person. After being sacked seven times by Carolina last week, Ryan was sacked only once Sunday.

“This is what we envisioned as an offense,” Gonzalez said. “You never know who is going to get it week in and week out, with those type of receivers outside, myself in the middle and Michael Turner in the backfield and Harry Douglas. There are a lot of weapons coming at you.

“It creates matchup problems for the defense.”

Gonzalez, who’s in his 16th year, has said he’s pretty sure he’ll retire after this season. But from this game, it’s clear that his skills have not diminished.

“I’ve been thinking about retiring for the last three years,” Gonzalez said. “That’s not the question. I know I can play another two years at a pretty good level. But the window is closing. I’m having a blast. I’m not thinking about it.”

157 comments Add your comment

kcdc

October 7th, 2012
4:12 pm

Go Micheal Turner…”can’t stop the ‘hocks”

Drew

October 7th, 2012
4:16 pm

ohhhhh yes – go ATL! After what happened to our Braves and Dawgs this is a great way to cap the weekend.

Yo Vince

October 7th, 2012
4:19 pm

My Falcons!!!!!

Ole Ball Coach

October 7th, 2012
4:20 pm

What do you mean OUR DAWGS??

Falcons 5-0 : The Latest Fuzz

October 7th, 2012
4:22 pm

[...] Atlanta Falcons improve to 5-0 for first time in team history – Atlanta Journal Constitution (… [...]

Papa Smurf

October 7th, 2012
4:23 pm

Thank you Falcons!

GTJeff

October 7th, 2012
4:25 pm

Glad my Falcons are keeping my spirits up! 5-0 baby! Could care less about the braves.

BigTimeBirdFan

October 7th, 2012
4:27 pm

Feels great to be 5-0, at least one Georgia team knows how to get it done…6-0 is right around the corner..

Trevor

October 7th, 2012
4:37 pm

Just win baby!

Not so Fast

October 7th, 2012
4:38 pm

Patience is a good thing. Falcons were steady and didn’t panic.

Ray Edwards

October 7th, 2012
4:40 pm

Props to my teammates. Sorry I couldn’t make it to the game today.

Madmax

October 7th, 2012
4:43 pm

DaveFM (92.9) is going to all sports talk, the oldies station is now all talk news, the project 96-1 has switched to another pop station, journey 97.9 has done the same and 98.9 the bone is so weak in transmission only about 30% of metro atlanta can get it. ATL radio stinx

Ford

October 7th, 2012
4:44 pm

Thank Goodness for Gonzalez,old reliable moves the chain.

falCANS

October 7th, 2012
4:45 pm

Lol who was nervous?? Hopefully nobody….. We’re good even on our bad days. Has ANYONE seen #52

Matty Ice no more!! 2MinuteMatt << Master of 2 minute drill

Goodgod

October 7th, 2012
4:45 pm

The General Matt Ryan overcame some misfires in the first half to dash the redkins hopes. He threw to nine diffrent playes who the defense coudn’t stop. Micheal Turner is running like his feet are on fire and bull running over defenders. This offense has two many weapons and determination to be stopped by anyone out there. Defensive coordinators can’t stop this mighty army, they can only hope there team can score and keep them off the field. This is indeed the season to remember.

Esquire

October 7th, 2012
4:46 pm

5-6-7-8
Everywhere we goooO,
Everywhere we goooO,
People wanna knooOw,
People wanna knooOw,
Who we aaa are,
Who we aaa are,
So we tell theem, So we tell theem,
We are the FALCONS!! We are the FALCONS!!
MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS, MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS !!
OHH AHH OHH YEEAHH

Boo

October 7th, 2012
4:48 pm

GO BIRDS!!!!

Leeman Bennett

October 7th, 2012
4:49 pm

It may not have been pretty, but that’s ok. We may not have dominated on both sides, but that’s ok. You get to the playoffs on your won-loss record, and right now ours is perfect.

Voice of Reason

October 7th, 2012
4:50 pm

CHOKE??? WHERE ARE YOU, JOKE???? {sound of crickets: Cheep, cheep, cheep …} It’s all about heart. These FALCONS are for real!!!

[...] Atlanta Falcons improve to 5-0 for first time in team history LANDOVER, Md. – Falcons running back Michael Turner slammed into the end zone from 13 yards out to propel the Falcons to a 24-17 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field. The Falcons improved to 5-0 for the first time in franchise … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Jasmin

October 7th, 2012
4:52 pm

Shout out to the Falcons once again for 5-0 status today. I was NEVER nervous. I knew that they would prevail. You better check my twitter…I always call it right. @MsJasmineATL. Falcons to the Superbowl. I said that too!

Pandora

October 7th, 2012
4:53 pm

The only way the Can’ts won is because the Redskins quarter back was NOT in the game. It’s not how you start, it’s how you fininsh. Ask the New York Giants! They started off really bad and they won the superbowl. The Cants’ are NOT Superbowl material. You all will not go this or any other season to play in any superbowl. Shoot you won’t even get past the first round n the play offs providing you actually go. :)

David Puddy

October 7th, 2012
4:55 pm

“CHOKE??? WHERE ARE YOU, JOKE???? {sound of crickets: Cheep, cheep, cheep …} It’s all about heart. These FALCONS are for real!!!”

But I’m thinking we’d be better off, still, with Mike V.

Elvis is Alive

October 7th, 2012
4:55 pm

We continue to be susceptible to middle of the field long passes. Ray Edwards crushed the replacement QB on the last interception. Did not see the stunting of the linebackers as much today as in previous games. Have to think we were looking for RG III to run more. Good win. On to next week. The other teams are now paying attention to the “Angry Birds”….RISE UP ATLANTA

Jackets

October 7th, 2012
4:56 pm

Dawgs lost because that is what happens when they play a REAL team!!!!

DEP

October 7th, 2012
4:57 pm

Another one for the W column, heck, that’s all that matters

SCFalcon

October 7th, 2012
4:57 pm

AJC Atlanta Falcons site. Officially now a troll free zone!

uoynossip

October 7th, 2012
4:57 pm

Falcons could go 15-1 and deep into the playoffs.

DEP

October 7th, 2012
4:59 pm

Jackets…go hang out with GTbob and the rest of the cry babies at the Tech blog…this is for the Falcons not UGA and certainly not Tech weenies

Voice of Reason

October 7th, 2012
5:00 pm

@David Puddy — really? Were you a fan back then? I loved Mike, and never missed a single home game where he played, but we had only one good season with Mora, the next two were painful. And then he hosed us beyond reason with the dog fighting. Matty and Smitty have the highest winning percentage in the NFL since they showed up. It’s only time ’till we break the postseason bubble. Look at Peyton. Fairly similar.

Rise Up!

October 7th, 2012
5:02 pm

WHERE ARE ALL THE n.o. TROLLS? ….

GregKennesaw

October 7th, 2012
5:03 pm

5-0 congrats Falcons, ugly win though

[...] PressFalcons Beat Redskins: Atlanta Knocks Out RG3, Wins 24-17 To Stay UndefeatedHuffington PostAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Washington Times -NFL Newsall 1,112 news [...]

Proud of the Falcons

October 7th, 2012
5:04 pm

Thank you, Falcons, for giving Georgia something to be proud of. Richt must go. He’s too mediocre.

UGA ECONOMICS MAJOR

October 7th, 2012
5:04 pm

so,so,so PROUD OF MY ATLANTA FALCONS!!!!!!!POISED,COOL,AND PLAYIN ANGRY AND HUNGRY!!!!!!!!ATLANTA FALCONS MY RED AND BLACK HATS OFF TO YA!!!!!!!!!SO VERY PROUD!!GONZALEZ!!!DO YOUR THING!!STEADY,CONSTANT AND CLASSY GUY….ITS THE FALCONS TIME THIS YEAR!!!!!!!!!

DawgNole

October 7th, 2012
5:09 pm

SCFalcon
October 7th, 2012
4:57 pm

AJC Atlanta Falcons site. Officially now a troll free zone!
__________________

I’ll believe it when I see it.

MarkATL

October 7th, 2012
5:13 pm

Pandora – So how will your Aints do against SD tonight???
I smell a CHARGERS victory cooking!!! :)

Supes

October 7th, 2012
5:15 pm

The N.O Trolls are hiding in fear of going 0-5 and the Falcons our Birds of Prey being 5-0…and “Choke” is somewhere crying that his idol’s team got beat in Pittsburgh

Ron Dickerson

October 7th, 2012
5:16 pm

Where are the screen plays? Love these BIRDS!!!Keep it going. Rise-up

Now_that_Mularky_is_Gone

October 7th, 2012
5:17 pm

Bless you Tony G!

And a shout out to Spoon for creaming Griffin. QBs aint supposed to run and its the job of the defense to whack them if they do.

tjhook

October 7th, 2012
5:20 pm

I would like to give props to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for being inventive when the Redskins were teeing off on us early. Good play calls during the game. I do hope the Coach runs Turner on more wide plays because he seems to run better when he builds acceleration (like a bowling ball)

sausage king of Chicago

October 7th, 2012
5:22 pm

Uhh, yeah, I know, I watched the game on my couch..

Bullseye

October 7th, 2012
5:28 pm

Where all of the off season haters of Decoud, Turner and Baker now?
THE Falcon fans can enjoy this.

Fred Garvin

October 7th, 2012
5:29 pm

Way to go Birds, play of the game was when Spoon put the hurt on RG3, that was beautiful.

Realism

October 7th, 2012
5:29 pm

All of the winning, just to choke up in the playoffs and set home packing. Hopefully they will not choke
up in the first round. Nottttt

44counter

October 7th, 2012
5:34 pm

Pregame, Keshon on ESPN, oh I need to watch and see how the Falcons do against the Redskins, they shudda lost to the Panthers. Post game, Strahan on FOX, I need to see how they do against a physical team like the 49ers.
So why don’t we just assemble an allstar team to just play the Falcons. Dam, show some credibility!!

moeLpz222

October 7th, 2012
5:36 pm

FalCons all daYy oh YeAa

amagan

October 7th, 2012
5:45 pm

Falcons rose up and flew high! What a season! Can’t wait for next week and the 6 and 0! I’ll be there to see the Falcons fly and win! Go my Birds!

Lince Vombardi

October 7th, 2012
5:46 pm

Falcons havethe easiest schedule in the NFL they should be 5-0

Five & O Falcons

October 7th, 2012
5:49 pm

…… shanahan that …….