NFL Nation: 2013 Week 15 WAS at ATL Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Atlanta Falcons

December, 15, 2013

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.

Rapid Reaction: Washington Redskins

December, 15, 2013

ATLANTA -- Thoughts and observations from the Washington Redskins' 27-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons:

What it means: Not everything was Robert Griffin III's fault. And you can’t start dreaming of a first-round pick in exchange for Kirk Cousins, although he showed plenty to still make him intriguing. It also means that you can’t turn the ball over seven times and expect to beat any team, even one that shares a 3-10 record. Cousins had some terrific moments and showed positives, but he also made a couple of bad throws that led to costly interceptions. Cousins looked like a young quarterback making his second NFL start. But he does a good job ignoring past mistakes and nearly led a comeback win. Cousins is a more aggressive passer than Griffin, which works for and against him. The Falcons seemed to have a good handle on Washington’s passing attack in the second half, as the Redskins did not sustain momentum from the end of the first half. The Redskins have now lost at least 11 games for the fifth time in owner Dan Snyder's tenure.

Two-point failure: The Redskins, with nothing to lose, went for a two-point conversion with 18 seconds left in the game rather than force overtime. They played for the win, and it’s tough to blame them. The Redskins had hurt Atlanta on rub routes and picks throughout the game. It appeared they tried another one on the right side, but the Falcons picked it up and denied Pierre Garcon the go-ahead points.

Costly mistakes: With their seven turnovers, the Redskins turned the ball over half as many times in this game -- against a 3-10 team that had forced 12 all season -- as they had in all of 2012. This statistic also is a big reason the Redskins are 3-11 (and the 14 turnovers last year explain why they were 10-6). The Falcons turned those turnovers into 20 points. Plus, there were two fumbles by running back Alfred Morris deep in Atlanta territory and a third by receiver Santana Moss that cost Washington a chance for at least three field goals and maybe more.

Stock report: Going up: Linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive lineman Chris Baker both played outstanding games. Orakpo was disruptive, generating pressure, sacks and penalties and not always off one aspect of his game. He won with speed, going around the edge, and strength driving into the tackle and cutting inside. Baker did a nice job with penetration and shedding blocks at the line. Going down: Funny thing is, Cousins had a strong game but turned it over three times; Morris had a good game but fumbled twice. The defense surrendered 27 points, and there was the usual soft zone coverage, but it did its job quite a bit, too.

Up next: The Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys, giving them a chance to spoil someone’s playoff hopes in their home finale.