LANDOVER, Md. — The Falcons had a strong day of third down work going until there was a major breakdown in the secondary.
The Falcons stopped the Redskins on their first seven third-down situations, but on the eighth, wide receiver Santana Moss went streaking down the middle of the field on a post route and no one went with him.
He hauled in the Kirk Cousins’ pass for a 77-yard touchdown.
“We had the absolute blown coverage on a third down and 12,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Again, that’s a great learning experience for us and the players.”
It’s unclear if safety William Moore was supposed be over the top on that play. It appeared that free safety Thomas DeCoud was passing the receiver along.
The Falcons have not had many blown coverages this season as the stable play of the secondary has been a part of the team’s early success.
It was Washington’s only successful third down conversion of the game as the Falcons held them to 1 of 9 (11 percent) for the game. Entering the game, opponents were converting on 48 percent on third down against the Falcons.
“I thought we did a nice job of our mix with our defenses,” Smith said.
Other than the big play, the defense was happy with it’s play on third downs.
“We knew if we could get them to third down we could increase our chances of getting off the field,” defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. “We tried to do our best with stopping the run. They got some yards and we need to do better with that.”
The Falcons lost the field position battle for most of the game. A total of 11 of their 13 drives started on their side of the 50.
All of their first eight drives started at their 21-yard line or lower.
“We were first in the league coming into this game in terms of drive starts,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “They did a pretty nice job of flipping the field on us a couple of times and we had to start inside our 5-yard line. That makes it just that much more difficult.”
The first drive started at the 8-yard line after kick returner Jacquizz Rodgers had a 47 yard return to Falcons’ 46 called back. Linebacker Robert James was called for holding at the 23 yard line. Instead of starting at the 46, the Falcons opened their drive at the 8-yard line. James’ miscue was essentially a 38-yard penalty.
Hawley the receiver
Joe Hawley, a backup center and guard by trade, was pressed into fullback duty against the Redskins in the Falcons’ “elephant” package.
He was used mostly as a blocker last week against Carolina, but the Falcons actually threw two passes to Hawley against the Redskins. He dropped both of them.
“Hopefully, they’ll give me another opportunity,” Hawley said. “I was the check down on those two.”
Wide receiver Roddy White said, laughing, “the funny thing is that he catches all of them in practice.”
Running back Antone Smith re-injured his hamstring against the Redskins in the first half and did not return.
Linebacker Stephen Nicholas suffered an ankle injury, but returned to the action.
The Redskins were 8 of 8 in goal line situations – with eight touchdowns – before being stopped by the Falcons in the third quarter. Billy Cundiff came on to make a 23-yard field goal. …After Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high seven times and hit 12 times against Carolina, the Falcons held the Redskins to one sack and three quarterback hits.