Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons came to FedEx Field and gave the Washington Redskins a reality check. Ryan threw for 350 and four touchdowns, including two to running back Tevin Coleman in route to a 38-14 thrashing of the Redskins.
Alex Smith eclipsed 300 yards for the first time this season, albeit due to playing catch up for much of the game. However, running back Adrian Peterson was shut down being held to 17 yards on nine carries by a poorest Atlanta defense.
Washington falls to 5-3 on the season but will remain in first place of the NFC East, while the Falcons are taking advantage of a lighter schedule for their second straight win pulling them to 4-4 on the season.
It’s simple the Redskins cannot score points, especially not the volume of points needed to win Sunday. Atlanta jumped on them early with a quick 14 points that should have been 21 if not for an errant throw by Ryan that was picked off by Quinton Dunbar.
For the third time this season, the Redskins’ opponents scored first. In all three games, they’ve lost.
The Redskins simply do not have the firepower on offense to keep up with an opposing scoring offense. And it starts with its pedestrian passing game. Yes, Smith eclipsed 300 yards but it’s a tally that is ballooned by the fact the game was about over early in the third quarter.
Smith’s three biggest passing games of the season have all come in the team’s three losses. That’s no coincidence. It’s a byproduct of a high volume of passes getting behind early.
Washington faced three top level quarterbacks in those losses, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, and Ryan, and yet, Smith could not keep up with either. Too many drives ended on misfired passes or drop passes.
The passing game is a nightmare when it’s needed. Whether its Josh Doctson dropping passes, or Smith’s quick eyes on intermediate routes, it’s a nightmare and one that cannot keep up with elite-level quarterbacks and offenses. Don’t let a late flurry already down by 21 points blind the fact the passing game looks no different than Blake Bortles in Jacksonville or Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo or Cleveland.
Doctson dropped two passes on the second drive of the game. The second would have converted a 3rd-and-15 instead the Redskins were forced to punt.
But dropped passes weren’t the only issues. Smith at times welcomed pressure from what started out as a clean pocket. He also missed open receivers like a pass in spacing intended for wide receiver Maurice Harris.
Game's over so it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but not sure how Alex Smith missed a wide open Mo Harris here… pic.twitter.com/LL85MLDuoo
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 4, 2018
The explosive plays weren’t there. They never developed for whatever reasons. Not like they had developed for other quarterbacks and offenses that faced a Falcons defense that was previously ranked 30th in the league.
The Redskins needed to score points in bunches. They needed to sustain drives, and they did not, going 5-of-13 on third down. The struggling Falcons defense shrunk the field for Smith and his receivers. They were forced to rely on shuffling through one-on-one looks for the ageless Vernon Davis.
It paid off on a third quarter drive in which Davis snagged a third-and-20 catch for 17 yards that set up a manageable 4th-and-3. Then Davis worked the middle one-on-one with a linebacker and got the first down at the Falcons’ three-yard line that setup a Kapri Bibbs touchdown on the next play that cut the deficit to 28-14.
The Redskins continued to work Davis across the formation trailing by multiple scores. At one point, he had four straight catches for 51 yards, however, Smith went to the well one too many times as he intercepted midway in the fourth trying to find Davis with tight coverage around him, killing any slim chance of a comeback.
Kazee now has 4 INTs in 7 starts this season.pic.twitter.com/zhidO8TiJX
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 4, 2018
The narrative continues writing itself as the season goes along. The Redskins can win with Smith and this sluggish passing game but not because of it. They must get in front on the scoreboard and play downhill with its run game and defense that has been good more often than not, all season.
Any variation from that model decreases Washington’s chances of being successful. Yes, the Redskins fell behind 21-7 by halftime, but the feel of the game suggested it was over the minute Atlanta scored on its opening drive.
The Redskins are still a good team despite the large margin of defeat, however, they cannot be taken seriously until they prove they can score at a better rate, especially when they are punched in the mouth early.