Rapid Reaction: Atlanta Falcons
December, 15, 2013
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com
ATLANTA -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 27-26 win over the Washington Redskins at the Georgia Dome.
What it means: Draft position will dominate the conversation for the remainder of the season, no matter the opponent. And the 4-10 Falcons looked like they were playing to lose based on the comedy of first-half errors. Fortunately for Atlanta, the Redskins (seven turnovers) seemed to turn the ball over on every possession, which kept the Falcons from improving their draft status. The Falcons entered Sunday’s action at No. 3 on the draft board behind the Houston Texans and the Redskins, although Washington has to surrender its 2014 first-round pick to the St. Louis Rams. Fans still hope the Falcons finish in position to have a shot to draft a player such as South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Living legend: Veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez won’t make the Super Bowl, but he’s still trying to make his final NFL season a memorable one. Gonzalez surpassed 15,000 career receiving yards on Sunday, becoming just the fifth player in NFL history to reach that milestone along with Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Isaac Bruce. Gonzalez scored a 13-yard touchdown and caught a pass in his 209th consecutive game.
Stock watch: Left tackle Lamar Holmes had shown much improvement from the beginning of the season. But Holmes took a significant step back on Sunday while going up against Redskins pass-rush specialist Brian Orakpo. Holmes couldn’t contend with Orakpo’s quick first step and couldn’t keep the pressure off Matt Ryan. Holmes even got flagged 15 yards for a clip. New starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder didn’t fare much better against Ryan Kerrigan, but Schraeder hasn’t played a lot this season.
Youth movement: One obvious concern coming into the game was how the Falcons' defense would respond with three rookies starting in the secondary: cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford along with safety Zeke Motta. Well, all three had hiccups against new Redskins starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. Veteran safety William Moore vowed to compensate with a strong effort. Well, Moore did have a key interception. Trufant also managed to pick off a Cousins pass and tipped away the two-point conversion attempt to seal the win. Also on defense, second-year player Jonathan Massaquoi started at right defensive end as the Falcons used veteran Osi Umenyiora in a reserve role for the first time this season.
What's next: The Falcons finish out their road schedule with a matchup with the mighty San Francisco 49ers on ESPN's "Monday Night Football." The teams last met in last year’s NFC Championship Game, with the 49ers advancing to the Super Bowl with a 28-24 road triumph. What a difference a year makes, with the 49ers still among the league’s best and the Falcons suddenly near the bottom of the league standings.
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