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.
Hall said afterward that this game -- his first back in Atlanta, where he spent the first four years of his NFL career -- wasn't more emotional than any other. His actions, though, showed differently. When Ryan scrambled on a third-down play with less than two minutes remaining in the half, he got to the sideline, where Landry nailed him.
A penalty flag for unnecessary roughness flew, and then things really got interesting. Hall, an outspoken and emotional player who was traded from the Falcons amid controversy, came to the sideline as well. He said he wanted to get Landry away from the play, but that Jeff Fish, Atlanta's director of athletic performance, made contact with him.
"Can't wait to watch the replay," Hall said. "I'm going to be giving Commissioner Goodell a call myself, because something needs to be done about that."
Smith, who made the decision with Atlanta General Manager Thomas Dimitroff to trade Hall after the 2008 season, said he didn't notice Hall in particular.
"There were a bunch of guys on that sideline," Smith said. "Some of them were wearing black helmets, and some of them were wearing maroon helmets. I can't tell you anything more about it. It was very, very hectic on that sideline."
Hall, though, said Smith specifically confronted him, and replays showed Smith trying to pull Hall away from the fracas.
"He put his hands on me in a harmful way, talking about he gonna kick my [rear], and all this other" stuff, Hall said. "And that ain't how you do things. It's a different story if he's coming in there to break a fight up."
When order was eventually restored, the Falcons' drive continued. The Redskins could have stopped Atlanta from scoring, because they forced an incomplete pass on third down. But on that play, defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander threw Ryan to the ground, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty. From a few yards away, linebacker Brian Orakpo looked up, watched the penalty flag fly in, and shook his head in disgust.
The drive stayed alive, the Falcons ended up with a field goal, and the Redskins' half of chaos -- one filled with jumping offsides and jumping the opponent, personal fouls and personal attacks -- came to a fitting close.