Perhaps the most critical question entering Washington’s game Sunday against the 4-0 Atlanta Falcons is how well the Redskins’ beleaguered secondary will hold up against Matt Ryan and his potent passing attack. Ryan and Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III have identical completion percentages (69.4 percent), which ranks second in the NFL. However, Ryan has attempted 23 more passes and thrown for seven more touchdowns.

The Falcons won’t hesitate to try to spread the ball around Sunday against a Washington defense that has allowed an NFL-high 13 passing touchdowns. Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather will sit out his fifth game of the season Sunday. Cornerback Cedric Griffin also won’t play due to a hamstring injury. 

For your reading pleasure: Morris shifts into higher gear | 5 storylines | Redskins pass defense hindered by instability at safety

We’ll post updates throughout. Enjoy the game.


Falcons-Redskins: Questions lie ahead this week

Robert Griffin III didn’t know the score or what quarter it was after he suffered a concussion against the Falcons. (Evan Vucci / AP)

The Redskins head into next Sunday’s game against the Vikings with a 2-3 record and two enormous questions as they prepare:

How quickly will Robert Griffin III recover from his “mild concussion” and will the team decide to hold kicker tryouts in Ashburn after Billy Cundiff’s struggles? 

Thanks for hanging out with us on the live blog. See you next Sunday.

Kirk Cousins: “Just rolled with the opportunity”

In a Comcast interview, Kirk Cousins — the Redskins’ “other” rookie quarterback — talked about coming in to replace Robert Griffin III, who sustained what Coach Mike Shanahan said was a “mild concussion.” 

“You have some nerves, but that’s part of playing quarterback, part of playing in the NFL. You expect that. [I] just rolled with the opportunity I was given. Obviously I didn’t like the result and need to do some evaluation tomorrow and get back to work and correct the mistakes.”

On the TD pass to Santana Moss:

“It looked like the deep safety didn’t get back to the middle of the field and Santana got behind the defense and I just needed to touch it over the curled defender and Santana did the rest.”

“It was a thrill, but at the time you know you still have a few possessions left and with Matt Ryan and that offense with the ball, you knew they were going to be able to take it down and get some points. We knew it was far from over and we had to keep fighting to finish strong.”

On the interceptions:

“Bottom line: I was trying to do too much, trying to get it all back on one play. You just can’t do that. You have to be patient, let the game come to you. When the opportunities are there, take ’em, but obviously, looking back, take the checkdowns, take the 3-, 4-yard gain and be okay with that and move on from there.”

Mike Shanahan on Billy Cundiff’s future

Coach Mike Shanahan on Billy Cundiff missing another field-goal attempt:

“It was disappointing, especially when it’s a chip shot in there.”

Shanahan wouldn’t indicate whether there might be open tryouts in Ashburn this week. “I’m not sure what we’ll do. I never say anything right after a game. You let about 24 hours go by and collect your thoughts, make decisions that you give you the best chance to win.”


From Adam Carriker …

Kirk Cousins throws two late interceptions, seals Redskins’ fate

The Kirk Cousins era — however brief it may turn out to be — started off with a bang. That 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss kept alive hopes that all was not lost against the Falcons after Robert Griffin III went down in the third quarter with what may have been a concussion.

But then Cousins threw an interception on the first play following the two-minute warning. Then he threw another as he was hit with just more than a minute to play.

And with that, the Redskins fell to the Falcons, 24-17. That marks Washington’s eighth straight home loss and gives the Redskins a 2-3 record on the season.

Cousins finished with 111 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on 5 of 9 passing. What did you all think of his overall performance? How comfortable would you feel with Cousins at the helm, should Griffin have to miss future games with the injury he suffered today?

Kirk Cousins raises a fair point

Falcons take lead; Redskins defense looking tired

The Redskins’ defense, which has stood tough for most of the day, appears to be wearing down a bit. Atlanta just conducted a six-play, 69-yard drive in which the Falcons made relatively easy gains on the ground and through the air. Michael Turner finished things off with a 13-yard touchdown run.

Atlanta holds a 24-17 lead with less than three minutes remaining.

Falcons tie the game on 53-yard field goal

The Redskins got their first sack of the day when defensive tackle Barry Cofield brought down Matt Ryan to give the Falcons third and long. But two plays later, Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant — who has yet to miss a field goal this season — sent a 53-yard attempt through the uprights.

Washington and Atlanta are tied, 17-17, with just less than eight minutes to play.

RGIII listed as “shaken up”

With Kirk Cousins filling in heroically, Robert Griffin III is listed by the Redskins as questionable to return. The team says he is “shaken up,” a rather antiquated term in the modern NFL. He had a bandage on his chin when he left the field and it appeared as if he might have gotten some stitches. He was taken for immediate examination in an area just off the field, then taken later into the locker room.

The NFL modified its in-game concussion protocol after the Cleveland Browns failed to conduct proper testing on Colt McCoy last December. An independently certified athletic trainer monitors concussion-related injuries in an upstairs booth at every game site.

Kirk Cousins throws 77-yard TD pass

Backup rookie QB Kirk Cousins puts Redskins back in the lead with a 77-yard touchdown pass. (Jonathan Newton)

In his second series under center today, Redskins backup rookie QB Kirk Cousins tossed a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss to put Washington back on top of the Falcons, 17-14. It’s still early in the fourth quarter, but that was certainly an impressive effort by Cousins to calm the collective nerves of every fan and Redskin employee at FedEx Field.

Whether or not Robert Griffin III (possible concussion) returns to the game, it seems Cousins is capable of steering the ship.

Atlanta takes 14-10 lead on TD reception by Julio Jones

So Robert Griffin III may have a concussion. He’s been — at least temporarily — replaced at quarterback by fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, who engineered a three-play, three-yard drive in his first series today under center.

Then the Falcons capped a five-play, 53-yard drive with a 18-yard touchdown reception by Julio Jones to provide Atlanta a 14-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Third quarter takeaway: Cousins-Grossman decision gets put to the test

The Redskins have had rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins active in every game this season as the primary backup to Robert Griffin III, ahead of veteran Rex Grossman.

Now that decision gets put to the test.

Cousins is in the game with the Redskins clinging to a three-point lead. Griffin exited after absorbing a hard hit on the sideline on a scramble. Under NFL rules, he cannot return to the game if he has any symptoms of a concussion.

Robert Griffin III heading to the Redskins locker room

UPDATE: Team says Griffin is “shaken up” and that his return to the game is questionable.

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is heading to the Redskins locker room for further medical examination after taking a hard hit from Atlanta LB Sean Weatherspoon during the third quarter against the Falcons. Under NFL rules, Griffin had to be taken in for more attention if he displayed an concussion symptoms. Additionally, Griffin cannot return to today’s game if he has any concussion symptoms. No official word yet from the team on Griffin’s status.

QB controversy? Don’t be silly.

RGIII is being checked for a concussion (his chin is already bandaged from the hit he took) on one of his few carries of the day and has just headed to the locker room. It’s Kirk Cousins time.

Pierre Garcon responsible for best incomplete pass (to date) of the Redskins season

Pierre Garcon’s incomplete pass helped set-up go-ahead field goal for the Redskins. (AP)

Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon caught a 15-yard pass and then fumbled as he came to the ground with just more than nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Falcons recovered and snuffed out another prime scoring opportunity for Washington.

Or at least that was the initial ruling on the field.

After a review by the officials in the booth, the call on the field was overturned, and the play was ruled an incomplete pass. That gave the Redskins second-and-10 from the Falcons 39-yard line.

A few plays later, Billy Cundiff converts a 23-yard field goal to provide the Redskins a 10-7 lead mid-way through the third quarter.

The drive wasn’t all positive, though. Robert Griffin III is receiving medical attention on the sideline after taking a hard hit near the sideline on the third down play that preceded Cundiff’s kick. More info to come as it becomes available. But when last seen, Redskins backup QB Kirk Cousins was warming up on the sideline.

Aside from containing Tony Gonzalez, Redskins defense solid in first half

Over the summer, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said he was “95 percent sure” he would retire at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Had Gonzalez — who more than likely is a lock for the Hall of Fame — decided to call it a career before the 2012 season, Sunday’s game would be going significantly smoother* for the Redskins.

* Same could be said about Billy Cundiff, I suppose.

Gonzalez caught nine passes for 86 yards in the first half against Washington. There was the 21-yard reception that set up his one-yard touchdown catch near the end of the second quarter. But other than that, Gonzalez has been picking apart the Redskins defense with short receptions at key points in Atlanta’s drives.

Washington largely has kept track of WR Julio Jones (8 rec., 47 yds) and Roddy White (2 rec., 47 yds). And the Redskins have limited RB Michael Turner to 25 yards on seven carries. QB Matt Ryan — who had been having an MVP-like season — hasn’t looked all that impressive.

Maybe if you’re Jim Haslett, you’re fine with holding all of Atlanta’s other weapons in check and letting Gonzalez have a big day. But if Washington’s offense continues to struggle putting points on the board, a big day by Gonzalez might be enough to help Atlanta sneak out of town with a victory.

It will be interesting to see whether the Redskins take a different approach to defending Gonzalez in the second half.

Second quarter takeaway: Kicking woes resurface

The Redskins and Falcons are tied at 7 at halftime after an eventful second quarter.

Billy Cundiff’s miss on a 31-yard field goal attempt perhaps ensures that the Redskins will have a new place kicker in a week. They didn’t audition any kickers last week after Cundiff missed three field goal attempts but made the game-winner in Tampa last Sunday. A performance like that leaves no further room for errors, though, and now he has made another major mistake.

The Atlanta offense finally got a touchdown after sputtering for most of the half. Matt Ryan entered the game as the league’s top-rated passer. But he has made bad throws today when there were big plays to be made for the Falcons. He also lost a fumble on a snap to squander a scoring opportunity.

The Redskins are getting solid play on defense, including Ryan Kerrigan’s touchdown on an interception, and are running the ball well with Alfred Morris. That potentially could be a winning formula on a day when the Falcons appear to be off their game. But the Redskins have to hope at this point it doesn’t come down to a kick by Cundiff.


Hey, but at least the Falcons didn’t …

… Oh. Nevermind then. After Billy Cundiff missed a 31-yard field goal late in the second quarter, the Falcons marched straight downfield and capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown reception by Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons went 79 yards in eight plays for that score.

So instead of entering halftime with perhaps a 10-0 lead, Washington and Atlanta likely will heading into the intermission tied, 7-7. A little more on this later, but Gonzalez has slowly, steadily been forming cracks in the Redskins defense today.

Should the Redskins look for a new kicker?

Think there’ll be some open kicker tryouts this week in Ashburn — even if Billy Cundiff kicks another game-winner?

Efficient Redskins drive ends with missed FG attempt by Billy Cundiff

Okay, time for a quick, informal poll: If you were in charge of Redskins personnel, would you replace placekicker Billy Cundiff this coming week? Cundiff just capped an efficient Redskins drive by missing a 31-yard field goal wide right. And, as you well know, this wasn’t his first missed field goal of the season. Cundiff has missed five of his last six field goal attempts, in fact.

So after Alfred Morris caught a 20-yard pass and then rushed for a 29-yard gain — and after Ryan Grant took his first carry as a Redskin five yards — the Redskins come away empty-handed.

Two-minute warning at FedEx. Redskins lead, 7-0.

Redskins defense tallies another turnover

With the Falcons driving into Redskins territory and just less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan fumbled the ball shortly after the snap. Washington LB Perry Riley came up with it to give the Redskins the ball near their own 30-yard line.

This is a big opportunity for the Redskins. Can their offense — which has produced 64 total yards thus far — capitalize?

Redskins take early lead on Kerrigan INT return for TD

Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has a tendency* to leap into the air to try to block passes thrown by the opposing team’s quarterback and instead returning to the ground with an interception. He did it again just now and returned the ball 28 yards for his second career touchdown and the Redskins’ third defensive touchdown of the season. Per Mark Maske, that marks the first time since 1999 that Washington has tallied three defensive touchdowns in a single season.

*Last year, Kerrigan tipped an Eli Manning pass, intercepted it and returned it nine yards for a touchdown against the Giants.

Behind a very solid performance by their defense, the Redskins take a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter against the Falcons.

First quarter takeaway: Offenses sputtering in surprising defensive struggle

The Redskins are, surprisingly, in a defensive struggle with the Falcons.

The Falcons came out and moved the ball well initially. But then they decided to take a shot deep and Matt Ryan’s pass fell incomplete. From there, Atlanta has sputtered on offense. But the Redskins, too, are having trouble moving the ball.

Still, the Redskins should be happy the longer they can keep the game close, and they’re performing well on defense and on special teams—a rare development for them this season.

Redskins-Falcons scoreless after first quarter

Depending on your perspective, either both defenses have performed well … or neither offense has been particularly effective thus far. Washington’s defense has tackled well and limited yards after the catch. Josh Wilson, in particular, has made a few key plays. Will be interesting to see how well the Redskins respond once Atlanta starts making some offensive adjustments.

Where’s the pressure? Why, there it is.

Update: And there it is! Pressure!

About Santana Moss …

Alfred Morris off to another solid start

Hey, have you all heard of this Alfred Morris guy? Seems like the rookie’s off to a good start here in Washington. Morris gained 27 yards on two carries in the Redskins’ first drive. Then QB Robert Griffin III got drilled by two Falcons defenders for a sack. And TE Fred Davis couldn’t corrall a third down pass.

But Morris, yeah. He’s doing well. Focus on that for now.

Redskins protect heavily against the pass on Falcons’ first drive

So far, the Redskins are opting for the bend-but-don’t-break approach on defense in an attempt to contain Atlanta’s passing attack. Washington is trading applying pressure to Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the pocket for keeping extra defenders back in pass coverage. The Redskins gave up a few short passes on that first drive, but nothing major. The Falcons tested Josh Wilson on a long pass attempt to Julio Jones, but the pass fell incomplete. Ryan overthrew his intended receiver a few plays later on third and long.

Can the Redskins win this game? Vote.

Yep, the Redskins’ secondary leaves a lot to be desired. It would seem that if you’re playing a “Matty Ice” drinking game, you’re going to be in the bag by the third quarter. But, as I often remind a Redskins fan who’s a friend of the Post’s blogs, stuff happens. Maybe the Falcons will have a little bit of dome shock today. And it starts getting more difficult to stay unbeaten about Week 5. Make your pick and tell me why, in the jibba-jabba section of the blog (aka the comments section) or on Twitter.

Week 5: Redskins vs. Falcons

The Redskins and Falcons are tied, 7-7, at halftime at FedEx. Washington had an opportunity to build a 10-0 lead, but Billy Cundiff missed a 31-yard field goal wide right. Atlanta responded with a quick score. That said, the Redskins’ defense has performed fairly well thus far.

Perhaps the most critical question entering Washington’s game Sunday against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons is how well the Redskins’ beleaguered secondary will hold up against Matt Ryan and his potent passing attack. 

Ryan and Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III have identical completion percentages (69.4 percent), which ranks second in the NFL. However, Ryan has attempted 23 more passes and thrown for seven more touchdowns than has Griffin.

The Falcons certainly won’t hesitate to try to spread the ball around Sunday against a Washington defense that has allowed an NFL-high 13 passing touchdowns and more passing yards (1,305) than all but one team in the league.

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather will sit out his fifth game of the season Sunday after re-injuring his left knee in a pre-game collision with wide receiver Aldrick Robinson last week at Tampa Bay. Cornerback Cedric Griffin also won’t play in Sunday’s contest due to a hamstring injury.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall missed Friday’s practice with the flu, though he is expected to play against the Falcons, who selected Hall with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Hall spent four seasons with Atlanta.

The Washington secondary will have its hands full monitoring wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones, as well as tight end Tony Gonzalez and tailback Michael Turner. How well the Redskins pass defense fares may go a long way toward determining whether Washington can snap a seven-game home losing streak.

We’ll post updates throughout. Enjoy the game.