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Falcons vs. Commanders instant recap: Red helmets and red faces in a bad home loss

The Falcons came into this one riding high after a big win over the Texans, one where their defense played well and Desmond Ridder enjoyed a career game. That high didn’t last long against Washington, as a great first drive gave way to early struggles on defense and the offense turning back into a festive October pumpkin against a Washington defense that had just allowed 40 points to the Bears.

The first half was once again a bit of a cluster for the Falcons, even if they fortunately ended it down just a single score. Desmond Ridder missed a few throws, the team couldn’t run it well at all against Washington, the pressure didn’t show up until late in the second quarter, and penalties and a long punt returner for the Commanders added up to a typically infuriating experience. That was especially frustrating after Atlanta went up 7-3 after their first truly productive opening drive of the season.

The second half featured the defense clamping down, allowing just seven points to the Commanders, but the offense got just six points of their own in the half as Ridder began making costly mistakes, the ground game only got going for brief, flickering moments, and the team just labored up and down the field. A missed two point attempt—the logic about going for it was probably sound, but the call to give Tyler Allgeier the ball up the middle when that hadn’t worked all day was questionable—and an agonizing sequence inside the 10 where the Falcons suffered a delay of game and then watched Ridder throw an interception seemingly doomed Atlanta. They ended up getting another shot and were driving, but then Ridder threw his third interception to end things. The Falcons lost 24-16.

Given the mistakes—the sloppiness, the lack of interest in taking advantage of opportunities, and the picks—this one will linger and sting for a long while, as it should. All the positive vibes after Week 5 are now gone, and the questions about this team’s offense turned out to just be put on layaway for a week.

Here’s a full drive-by-drive recap of the game you just watched.

1st Quarter

Washington began the game with the ball. A quick pass to Terry McLaurin was quickly ended by a nice Kaden Elliss tackle. Brian Robinson’s second down carry went absolutely nowhere, setting up a 3rd and 9 where Howell converted with a strike to Curtis Samuel. A pass to Logan Thomas went for about a yard, and then McLaurin picked up a first down. A shot down the sideline covered by A.J. Terrell fell incomplete, and Robinson got a yard. McLaurin then grabbed one with Howell rolling out and picked up quite a few yards to bring Washington within striking distance. The next play featured Grady Jarrett getting home and sacking Howell for a loss of several yards, and then Calais Campbell stopped the run cold. On 3rd and 16, the pass was short of the sticks, setting up a field goal try that Washington made. 3-0 Commanders.

Bijan Robinson got the first touch and covered a couple of yards. A pitch to Robinson then was pitched back to Desmond Ridder, with a shot downfield to KhaDarel Hodge that was didn’t quite connect. Fortunately, he then got Kyle Pitts for a first down over the middle. Tyler Allgeier went nowhere on the first down carry as Daron Payne got into the backfield, but a laser to Drake London picked up 20. A floater to a wide open Mack Hollins picked up another first down, and then Robinson got three yards on first down. Ridder was flushed out of the pocket and then ran out of bounds for a loss of a yard and a sack. A dart to London went for another first down, and then Allgeier bulldozed his way forward for six yards. Ridder then threw one high where only Kyle Pitts could get it for a touchdown. 7-3 Falcons.

Washington started things off from the 20 yard line. Robinson got about four yards by bouncing outside. McLaurin then picked up a first down, and a holding call backed up a nice run by Washington. A couple of yards for Antonio Gibson, followed by Jeff Okudah showing up just as the ball did to prevent McLaurin from making the catch, followed by Howell simply missing McLaurin down the sideline deep. Punt.

Atlanta started things off at the 22. Ridder tried for Pitts on first down but didn’t connect.

2nd Quarter

Tyler Allgeier picked up a couple of yards, setting up a 3rd and long. Bijan got the ball on a quick pass but wasn’t able to get more than four yards. Punt, and unfortunately the Jamison Crowder return went all the way back to about the 12 yard line before Tre Flowers got him.

Samuel then went eight yards on first down, with Robinson bulldozing his way to a first down just shy of the end zone. A quick play action pass to Antonio Gibson led to a touchdown. 10-7 Commanders.

Allgeier once again went nowhere on first down, but Ridder was able to hit London over the middle for a first down. Robinson was able to pick up four yards on first down, and then Ridder found Cordarrelle Patterson for another first down. Ridder then took a deep shot to Van Jefferson that was just a little too far for him to catch. On second down, Robinson picked up close to eight yards, and then Ridder tried Robinson down the sideline and just went a bit too high. Ridder’s fourth down throw was a low and behind Robinson, and it was a turnover on downs.

Howell’s first down throw was a bit high to Jahan Dotson, but he also couldn’t reel it in. Brian Robinson got to the outside and picked up seven yards, Jeff Okudah smothered the receiver on third down to force a 4th and 1, with Washington electing to go for it and then calling a timeout. Howell faked a handoff and ran it for a first down. Gibson then plowed ahead for nine yards through significant contact, and a holding call on Okudah gave Washington a fresh set of downs. A wide open McLaurin down the sideline resulted in a big first down. Then Howell found Samuel again for a touchdown over the middle. 17-7 Washington.

Robinson got a couple of yards on first down, and then Ridder hit Scotty Miller for maybe four yards. Fortunately, on third down he got Pitts for a first down, and then Pitts rolled to 19 yards. On first down, Ridder’s pass to Allgeier was tipped. An inside toss to Robinson went for a couple of yards on second down, and then Robinson caught an open pass and took it 22 yards. Ridder had to throw it away rolling away from pressure on first down, and it was called intentional grounding and the Falcons lost a down and 16 yards. A short pass to London and an ineligible man downfield penalty that was declined followed, leaving the Falcons at 3rd and 24. Ridder got London again inside the 30, setting up a field goal try for Younghoe Koo, which he hit. 17-10 Commanders.

Howell wandered into a sack on first down, and then Calais Campbell got his 100th career sack on the next play. On third down, Howell simply threw it into the ground to end the drive. A quick pass to Jonnu Smith picked up about five yards, and then Ridder tried London down the sideline and it was just a touch high, with London unable to reel it in. On third down, Ridder tried for Scotty Miller and wasn’t able to connect. Punt.

Robinson ran for about nine yards and made his way out of bounds. Howell then kneeled it and the half was over.

3rd Quarter

Two plays went a total of three yards as the Falcons kicked things off in the third quarter, bringing up a 3rd and 7. On third down, Ridder threw an interception on a ball intended for Bijan Robinson—the booth speculated miscommunication fueled it—and Washington brought it back within the 25 yard line.

Three yards on first down for Washington, and then Howell escaped pressure to throw a quick pass to Brian Robinson that went for a touchdown. 24-10 Commanders.

Allgeier picked up about two yards, looking like he’d get more before he was tripped up. Ridder then got Robinson for about six yards on second down, and then Ridder escaped a sack and ran for a first down. Allgeier picked up three or four yards on first down and another solid gain on second down, setting up a 3rd and 3. Then Ridder tried to escape pressure going backwards and was sacked. Punt.

A quick run up the middle picked up six yards as the Falcons’ run defense continued to look janky and unprepared. Another first down followed for Chris Rodriguez, but the first down run stop led to only a yard. Then Howell scrambled away from pressure and picked up one yard, before Arnold Ebiketie got the coverage sack on third down with Howell dithering in the pocket. Punt.

Ridder ran it 14 yards on first down with nobody open downfield. Allgeier got four yards, and then Ridder hit Jonnu Smith for 12 yards. On the next play, it was another 13 yards for Smith, who made a leaping grab. Ridder then just missed Mack Hollins on first down before Robinson got about five yards on second down. On third down, Ridder tried to hit Pitts, but pass interference on Washington both broke the play up and resulted in a first down and some yardage. Allgeier got a few yards on first down, and then another four yards on second down to set up a 3rd and 2.

4th Quarter

A pitch to Robinson went absolutely nowhere, as the team lost a couple of yards. On fourth down, though, Ridder was able to hit Mack Hollins over the middle for a first down. Robinson then picked up two or three yards up the middle to make it 2nd and goal, and the hard count drew Washington and picked up a neutral zone infraction to get Atlanta half the distance to the goal. On the next play, Ridder hit Jonnu Smith (who slightly bobbled it before bringing it in) for the touchdown. The team went for two and didn’t get it, but a flag on Washington got the Falcons another crack at it from the one yard line. Allgeier couldn’t get it, and it was 24-16 Commanders.

Washington got 18 yards to McLaurin, but then that drive fizzled out and the Commanders had to punt.

London made a nice grab on the sideline on a free play after an offsides call on Washington, getting Atlanta going in spectacular fashion right away. Robinson took it nine yards on first down. Ridder then got six yards on a quick dart to Pitts, and then Allgeier finally got a hole and hit it hard for about an eight yard gain and a first down. Robinson slipped a bit on his next carry and only got one yard on the play, and then London couldn’t reel in a pass from Ridder over the middle. Ridder got crushed while trying to throw and fumbled it, with Drew Dalman making a nice play to fall down on it. A roughing the passer call on Cody Barton meant the play didn’t end unhappily. Then Allgeier took it well over ten yards to get inside the 10, and on the next play picked up another couple of yards. A neutral zone infraction and injury for Daron Payne got the Falcons closer, and then Ridder effectively threw it away with MyCole Pruitt covered in the end zone. The Falcons got hit with a delay of game, which backed Atlanta up five yards. The Falcons got the play off just as time expired on the next play, and then Ridder threw an interception into the end zone.

Howell just threw it out of bounds on first down. A David Onyemata run stop led to the loss of about a yard, setting up a third and long for Washington. Howell was then sacked on third down for a big loss, forcing another punt.

Robinson got two yards on first down, and then Ridder launched one that wasn’t close to Jonnu Smith as the pair apparently weren’t in sync on the route. Ridder tried to take off running on third down and only made it about a yard. On fourth down with the team having to go for it, Ridder tried to throw it to Pitts that was broken up. Turnover on downs.

Washington ran and the Falcons called a pair of timeouts, and then it was 3rd and 8 when Howell skipped one into the dirt. Punt.

Ridder hit London for a first down to get things moving, The next one could’ve been picked off by Kendall Fuller, but London was able to snatch it out of the air for a first down. Robinson got the next catch and picked up about nine yards, and then hit Hollins for about 18 yards. Pruitt snagged the next one for about nine yards. Ridder spiked it, making it 3rd and 1 with 31 seconds left. The team then had to call their last timeout to avoid a delay of game, and then Ridder threw his third interception to end the game.

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