Flags, tempers fly in Redskins' ragged first half

DeAngelo Hall (23) gets into an altercation with the Falcons sideline after LaRon Landry hit Matt Ryan out of bounds. The Redskins had 69 yards of penalties in the first half.
DeAngelo Hall (23) gets into an altercation with the Falcons sideline after LaRon Landry hit Matt Ryan out of bounds. The Redskins had 69 yards of penalties in the first half. (Toni L. Sandys/the Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 2009

ATLANTA -- Well before DeAngelo Hall got involved in a sideline tussle with his former Atlanta Falcons teammates late in the second quarter Sunday, discipline was an issue for the Washington Redskins. By that point, they had six penalties -- two of them offsides infractions on defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, one of which revived a stalled Atlanta drive. Chaos had clearly crept in.

Hall, though, has a penchant for drama, and though there were more costly plays in the Redskins' 31-17 loss to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome, none better typified Washington's utter loss of self-control than Hall's mix-up with the Atlanta coaching staff and players. The near free-for-all started when Redskins safetyLaRon Landry hit Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan out of bounds. It included Redskins Coach Jim Zorn traveling nearly all the way across the field to extract his players from the mess, and it ended after the game, when Hall said he would call NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in protest because he believes Falcons Coach Mike Smith physically threatened him.

"It's different when a coach comes over there to break guys up," Hall said. "When a coach comes over there to put his hands on you in a harmful way, something needs to be done about that. . . . I'll definitely be calling some of my friends and figuring out what to do about this situation."

The Redskins fell behind 24-3 at halftime at least in part because of their own infractions. By the end of the first half, Washington had the same number of yards of offense as it did yards in penalties (69), some of them coming at exasperating moments.

"We weren't very disciplined in the first half," defensive captain London Fletcher said. "We kind of lost our poise in some situations."

Start, then, with Atlanta's opening possession and a fourth-and-one play from the Washington 8-yard line. The Falcons came out as if they were going to run an offensive play, and Ryan tried to draw the Redskins offsides using different inflections in his voice and movement in his body. Defenders are schooled in how to react in such situations.

"It's just mental," defensive end Andre Carter said. "We've done it since [offseason workouts]. You got to be smart. . . . You have to key the ball."

Haynesworth, though, did not. He watched Ryan.

"He flinched," Haynesworth said. "The quarterback did. I had been watching his feet and legs and hands and stuff, and he was doing all the movements and stuff like that. I should've watched the ball."

So when Ryan went with a hard snap count, Haynesworth jumped. Instead of an Atlanta timeout and a field goal attempt, the Falcons had first and goal from the 4. Two plays later, they scored their first touchdown.

"It was my fault," Haynesworth said.

The Redskins forced Atlanta to punt on its next possession, but Washington safety Reed Doughty lined up in the neutral zone, allowing another first down. They struggled with tackling all day. And they lost their composure.

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