Redskins sink deeper

Vick, Falcons come back from 14-0 hole, dim Washington's playoff hopes

Falcons 24 Redskins 14

December 04, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

Landover -- The Washington Redskins seemed to be on the brink of an early blowout victory yesterday against the Atlanta Falcons at FedEx Field. The Redskins scored on their first two possessions and had good field possession on their third. The Falcons, losers of four straight, were in free-fall.

The rest of the afternoon was a bleary blur for the Redskins.

If it wasn't second-year quarterback Jason Campbell showing his inexperience and being intercepted twice, once leading to Atlanta's first touchdown, then it was Falcons quarterback Michael Vick dancing through the defense or running back Jerious Norwood rumbling 69 yards for a touchdown.

The Redskins lost, 24-14, wasting a career-high 155 yards on 28 carries by running back Ladell Betts as well as seven catches for 123 yards from wide receiver Santana Moss. The defeat likely eliminated Washington (4-8) from the playoffs for the second time in the three years since Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs returned.

"Really, we should have put them away early," said Betts, who scored the first touchdown on an 8-yard run. "To their credit, they bounced back and fought and they got the win. We jumped on them 14-0 and it looked like it was about to be a rout. We didn't keep our foot on the gas."

Running behind Betts on a nine-play, 69-yard scoring drive, then scoring again when Moss made a leaping 42-yard catch between two defenders before rolling into the end zone, the Redskins seemed intent on pounding away at the right side of Atlanta's defensive line.

Instead, they tried some trickery. After Moss was ruled out of bounds on a first-down pass, Antwaan Randle El took a handoff on a reverse. Just as happened in last week's win over the Carolina Panthers, Randle El lost 2 yards. Two plays later, the Redskins punted and the momentum began to slip away.

Asked if he was surprised by the play-calling on that third series, fullback Mike Sellers said, "We're just pawns in the game. Even though we have jobs to do, we don't call the plays. We do what we're supposed to do. Apparently we didn't do enough to get the win."

Said Gibbs: "We set our goals for the game and when we started out, we operated about as good as we've operated all year. Then we couldn't sustain our momentum. We didn't make plays. We put the ball in their hands. We had a game plan, but we just couldn't stick with it."

Behind Vick's playmaking, the Falcons (6-6) climbed back into the game.

They got their first points on a 34-yard field goal by ageless kicker Morten Andersen early in the second quarter, cut their deficit to 14-10 with the help of two passes from Vick to tight end Alge Crumpler and then took the lead for good early in the third quarter.

The Redskins started the second half by driving from their 37 to the Atlanta 20. About to be sacked, Campbell's weak throw was intercepted by defensive end Chauncey Davis, who ran 41 yards to the Washington 25. Two plays later, Vick hit Michael Jenkins for a 22-yard touchdown.

Then after a punt by Derrick Frost pinned the Falcons at their 2, Vick got Atlanta out of trouble and Norwood, the rookie from Mississippi State who made T.J. Duckett expendable last summer, ran by safety Vernon Fox and then faked out cornerback Kenny Wright en route to a 69-yard touchdown.

"It is frustrating, but he's [Vick] able to improvise and make plays with his legs" said Wright, who replaced veteran cornerback Shawn Springs, a late scratch because of a pulled hamstring. "We had 'em pretty much where we wanted 'em, but they made a couple of plays at the end."

Said cornerback Carlos Rogers: "The bottom line is we didn't tackle them."

Still, the Redskins had a chance late in the game. They drove from their 5 to Atlanta's 16 with 2:44 to go, but Campbell was intercepted again, this time at the goal line.

After Rock Cartwright blocked a punt, the Redskins took possession at the Atlanta 27 with 2:03 left.

Here, the play-calling got strange again. After getting the ball down to the 2 with a series of short passes, the Redskins went back to Betts on third-and-1 despite the fact that only 55 seconds remained and they were out of timeouts. Betts lost 2 yards and a fourth down pass was incomplete.

Asked about the play-calling early in the game, associate head coach Al Saunders said, "Who knows what would have happened if we would have done something else? We just didn't execute."

While the victory ended a month of frustration for the Falcons, temporarily taking Vick (8-of-16 passing for 122 yards, 10 rushes for 59 yards) and coach Jim Mora Jr. off the hot seat they seemed to be sharing, it realistically ended any playoff hopes for the Redskins.

When asked if the team had any hopes for a second straight postseason, Betts chuckled.

"Obviously speaking there has to be a little luck fall on our side," Betts said. "Some other guys are going to have to lose, that loss today is going to make it tougher. We have to look and see where the chips fall and keep plugging. We have four games left, we're not going to stop fighting."

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