Robert Alford’s pick six in overtime capped a dramatic scoring flurry over the final two minutes to propel Atlanta to a 25-19 win over Washington in Georgia Dome.
The collective sigh of relief from Falcons fans was matched only by the groans of disappointment from the numerous Redskins fans scattered throughout the dome. Alford’s score ended a game that took both sets of fans on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
It was the third-year veterans’ second interception in a game that included two missed field goals by Matt Bryant, two interceptions thrown by Matt Ryan, and a fumble by Devonta Freeman that was recovered by Julio Jones in the end zone for a touchdown. In the greater scheme of things, the pick six was par for the course.
Alford’s play continued the trend of Falcons defenders coming up with big plays to turn the tide for the Dirty Birds in tough games. Ricardo Allen’s interception sealed the Eagles game; Kroy Biermann’s forced fumble turned the tide against the Giants, and against the Cowboys it was an interception by Will Moore that changed the game’s momentum in Atlanta’s favor.
Despite the missed opportunities and sloppy play Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn found the silver lining. “Well I think there are some positives that do come out of it when you go through the tough time and push yourself to a new threshold,” said Quinn. “When it happens, you’ve been through it, and you know you’re ready to battle for it again. Fortunately, for us, we’ve been through a couple, but when you’re in that locker room, and you’re exhausted and knowing that you pushed yourself to a new spot to go fight, I think you do gain something from that.”
The Falcons won and not one touchdown included the phrase, “Matt Ryan to Julio Jones for a touchdown”. Ryan didn’t have a touchdown pass to Jones or anyone else for that matter.
Ryan threw two deep balls to Julio Jones on the Falcons first offensive series. The first was incomplete and the second was intercepted by Redskins safety Trenton Robinson. “I know who they want to get the ball too [Julio Jones] and I just broke on it and the ball was there,” said Robinson. “I just wanted to come down with it and make a play.”
Atlanta looked sluggish and out of sync throughout the first half. “We didn’t’ play as well as we would’ve liked to offensively in the first half,” said Ryan. “We just never really got into a rhythm. I didn’t do a good enough job for us to keep the ball moving and make plays.”
Matt Bryant split the uprights from 42 yards out to answer the Redskins touchdown and cut the lead to 4. Bryant got a chance to cut the lead to 1 right before the half but the 38-yard attempt clanged off the right upright.
The Falcons struggles through the first three-quarters seemed to disappear by the fourth quarter. Insert quip –‘Better late than never’. Actually, the first touchdown-producing drive started with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Aided by the resurgence of the running game, a pass interference penalty, and a Roddy White reception –that drew chants of Roddy from the crowd- the Falcons marched down to the Washington 3 yard line to set up Julio Jones’ only touchdown of the game. Jones’ touchdown came with an assist from Freeman. A Washington defensive end Chris Baker stripped Freeman squibbing the ball across the turf into the end zone where an alert Jones pounced on it to give Atlanta its first lead of the game.
The outpouring of support for White was heard loud and clear. “It meant a lot,” said the Falcons senior receiver. “I’ve been around this place for a very long time, and they know every Sunday I’m going to give my all, and that I’m going to give them everything I got every Sunday I go out there.”
After the touchdown, Quinn naturally decided to go for the two-point conversion to make the lead a touchdown game but Ryan’s pass to Leonard Hankerson was batted down. The missed conversion nearly became a pivotal moment had it not been for the defense knocking away a two-point conversion attempt by Washington on the subsequent 80-yard scoring drive.
The benefits of defending the conversion became significantly apparent on the next drive when cornerback Bashaud Breeland picked off Ryan 2 minutes later. Bashaud’s interception and return set up a Dustin Hopkins 28 yard field goal that gave Washington a 16-12 lead.
Mathematically, the combinations of outcomes would have to include a few additional scoring scenarios that include an 18-12 lead where Washington converted its attempt, an 18-14 lead where both teams converted their attempts and a 16-14 lead where only the Falcons converted. The downside for Washington fans is that the last second field goal from Hopkins would have won the game in regulation in only the first scenario. The other two scenarios would have resulted in either overtime or an outright Falcons win in regulation.
Statistically, Washington only had a 1 in 4 chance of winning the game. Against the now 5-0 Falcons, those odds just aren’t good enough.