LANDOVER, Md. – Robert Griffin III isn’t the type of quarterback to run out of bounds, and Sean Weatherspoon knew it. The Atlanta Falcons linebacker kept up the pursuit and went for the tackle. His upper body rammed into the helmet of the rookie who doesn’t shy from contact.
Griffin was down and done. A mild concussion, according to Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. On a day in which the Falcons’ usually powerful offense was a bit out of sync, the defense made a play that changed the game.
Matt Ryan went on to lead three scoring drives in the fourth quarter Sunday, scraping together enough points for a 24-17 win that gave the Falcons their first 5-0 start in franchise history.
I felt like he was still turning upfield, so I was just trying to make a play, Weatherspoon said. Most quarterbacks would probably slide out of bounds or run out of bounds, but he’s a tough guy.
The play turned a third-and-goal from the 3 to a fourth-and-goal from the 5 late in the third quarter. The Redskins then kicked a field goal to take 10-7 lead, and Griffin’s replacement, fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, managed one big play in his NFL debut that put Washington in front one more time in the fourth quarter.
Matt Bryant stayed perfect on the year with a 53-yard field goal. Michael Turner ran 13 yards for the go-ahead score with 2:46 to play. The defense intercepted Cousins twice.
The Falcons didn’t score until the final minute of the first half, but Ryan finished with 34 completions on 52 attempt for 345 yards with two touchdowns and one interception – a screen pass picked off by Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and run back 28 yards for the game’s first score.
Tony Gonzalez caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Jones had 10 receptions for 94 yards.
The Redskins (2-3), losing their eighth consecutive home game, were left to deal the injury to Griffin, who will be evaluated today.
With Robert not being in there, definitely allowed them to change up their scheme, said Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who ran 115 yards on 18 carries. They were flying downhill a lot faster. It definitely affected our running game. Once he wasn’t in anymore, they were just able to pin their ears back.