Here are four takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 19-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons in their third preseason game.
Win provides blueprint: Whether teams win or lose in preseason games doesn’t matter a whole lot — the 2017 Cleveland Browns infamously followed up a 4-0 preseason by going 0-16 when it counted — but getting their first win of 2019 had to feel good for the Redskins and Coach Jay Gruden. More importantly, the victory set something of a likely template for success this season. The defense led the way by stifling an opponent, while the offense did just enough, particularly on the ground, to hold up its end of the bargain. Washington has all the more reason to feel a boost in confidence because the win came on the road against an Atlanta club expected to have a high-powered attack but whose three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, Matt Ryan, could get very little going while playing the entire first half.
Guice gets going: The major individual story, at least from a positive standpoint (more on that in a moment), centered around Derrius Guice. The second-year running back, whose rookie season was wiped out after he tore a knee ligament in his first preseason game, returned to action for the first time since then, and he looked good. Guice ran for 44 yards on 11 carries, adding a four-yard reception, and he showed burst and vision, even throwing in a solid stiff-arm. Above all else, Guice showed that he could take some hits and get up and keep going, a result for which he expressed gratitude during a midgame interview. It remains to be seen if Guice, who started and played the entire first half, is the Week 1 starter or if the Redskins ease him in while giving starts to Adrian Peterson, but he and the team have to be encouraged by his performance.
Reed evaluated for concussion: And now for the less happy story regarding an important offensive player making his preseason debut. Tight end Jordan Reed was evaluated during the game for a concussion after he took a helmet-to-helmet hit early on that knocked his headgear off and is in the concussion protocol. The Redskins can only hope that Reed passes, not only for his sake as a player with a history of brain injuries, but because Reed probably was set to be their leading receiver. The seventh-year veteran recently remarked on his good health leading into the season, a welcome change from the past few years and a development that provided hope he could return to the form he showed in 2015, when he had 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Gruden said after the game that Reed was “symptomatic” and thus was placed in the protocol.
Mixed bag for some players seeking playing time: Left guard Ereck Flowers got the start as he vied for a starting spot with Wes Martin, but while he helped open some holes in the running game, he also committed a holding penalty that cost Guice a goal-line touchdown and whiffed on a block that cost Case Keenum a possible touchdown pass. Meanwhile, wide receiver Cam Sims may already have locked up a roster spot, but he certainly didn’t hurt his cause with three catches for a game-high 48 yards. Fellow wide receiver Robert Davis couldn’t quite snare a pass in the end zone after scoring on long touchdowns in each of the first two preseason games, but he contributed by pouncing on a muffed punt to get his team the ball back. While rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins almost certainly did not do enough to unseat Case Keenum for the Week 1 starting job, he made some good throws, particularly after getting into a rhythm in the fourth quarter, and continued to give Washington hope that it has its quarterback of the future. For his part, Keenum had a solid night (101 yards on 9-of-14 passing, 85.7 rating) except for one glaring mistake, a turnover on a poor decision that led directly to Atlanta’s only points. And Samaje Perine, looking to lock up the No. 4 spot on the running back depth chart, had 16 yards and a touchdown on four carries, after just 14 yards on 11 carries over the first two games.
Touchback after fumble recovery: The Redskins nearly followed up a field goal with a quick touchdown, but after picking up a Falcons fumble, defensive back Ashton Lampkin had the ball knocked loose just before he reached the end zone, resulting in a touchback. Atlanta wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who muffed a punt in the third quarter, redeemed himself with the play, while Falcons running back Qadree Ollison was guilty of the initial fumble at his own 18.
Another field goal extends lead: Dustin Hopkins’s fourth field goal of the night, this one from 40 yards, extended the Redskins’ lead to 12 points. Dwyane Haskins began Washington’s drive by completing four of five passes for 57 yards, and he almost wide receiver Robert Davis for a 22-yard touchdown, but the pass was just a bit out of reach.
(Redskins 19, Falcons 7, 8:26 4th quarter)
Reed evaluated for concussion: Tight end Jordan Reed, who has had concussions in the past, was being evaluated for another one, the Redskins announced. Reed, who was in his first preseason action tonight and had his helmet knocked off earlier in the game, was declared out for the rest of the contest.
Redskins get field goal after another muffed punt: For the second time in the third quarter, the Falcons muffed a punt, this time by Olamide Zaccheaus, a rookie wide receiver from the University of Virginia. Starting from the Atlanta 18, Washington running back Byron Marshall picked up a first down on two carries, but three successive pass attempts by Dwayne Haskins yielded just two yards on one completion, and Dustin Hopkins came on to make a 23-yard field goal, his third of the night.
(Redskins 16, Falcons 7, 2:03 3rd quarter)
Haskins starts second half, Redskins score quickly: Rookie first-round pick Dwayne Haskins was under center when the Redskins got the ball to start the second half. He connected for a short gain on his first pass attempt but Washington failed to get a first down on three initial plays. However, Tress Way’s punt was muffed by Atlanta returner Marcus Green and the Redskins recovered at the Falcons’ 17-yard line. From there, Redskins running back Samaje Perine — Derrius Guice appears to be done for the night — needed three carries for 11 yards, plus an Atlanta face-mask penalty, to score.
(Redskins 13, Atlanta 7, 11:41 3rd quarter)
Halftime: Falcons 7, Redskins 6
After cutting their deficit to one point, the Redskins forced a three-and-out, with their defense again making Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan uncomfortable and nearly forcing a turnover. Getting the ball back with just 43 seconds left in the second quarter, Washington was unable to move quickly enough to try a long field goal, and the first half ended when Darvin Kidsy was tackled after a short reception.
In his first action since the first preseason game of 2018, when he suffered a torn knee ligament, running back Derrius Guice played the entire first half, rushing 11 times for 44 yards and catching one pass for four yards. It remains to be seen if Coach Jay Gruden decides to put his first-stringers back on the field for the second half, or perhaps lets rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins get a series or two with starting players around him.
Redskins have TD taken away, get field goal: After getting stuffed twice on the goal line, Derrius Guice appeared to score on a third-down leap, but left guard Ereck Flowers was called for holding. Case Keenum then had a would-be touchdown pass to wide receiver Cam Sims batted away near the goal line, and the Redskins settled for a 29-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins. Just before that sequence, the Redskins picked up a first down on the 1 when wide receiver Terry McLaurin was able to pick up a pass interference penalty on a throw into the end zone. Washington went run-heavy on the drive leading up to that play, with Guice taking three carries 22 yards and Chris Thompson gaining 18 on a pair of handoffs. The big play, though, was a 28-yard completion from Keenum to Sims.
(Falcons 7, Redskins 6, 1:24 2nd quarter)
Keenum turns it over, Falcons score: Under a heavy pass rush, Case Keenum made a questionable decision by tossing the football into traffic as he was being dragged to the turf. The ball was picked off by Atlanta’s Takk McKinley, who returned it 17 yards to the Redskins’ 33. Five plays later, Falcons running back Ito Smith punched it in from the 5-yard line, and the extra point gave the host team its first lead.
(Falcons 7, Redskins 3, 6:15 2nd quarter)
Reed gets helmet knocked off on first catch: Redskins fans had reason to hold their collective breath as Jordan Reed took a big hit on his first catch. His helmet flew off, and Atlanta was called for a personal foul. The oft-injured Reed was able to get up immediately and appeared to be in good shape, although TV analyst Joe Theismann suggested that the tight end get the rest of the night off.
Reed, Richardson, Penn also in starting lineup: Joining Derrius Guice when the Redskins’ offense first took the field were some other significant offensive players who had not yet seen preseason action, tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Paul Richardson. Left tackle Donald Penn joined them, as he competes with Geron Christian for a starting job, at least as long as Trent Williams continues his holdout. On the Redskins’ second series, Reed couldn’t corral a short pass from Case Keenum on 3rd-and-6, and Washington went three and out, including two runs by Guice for a total of four yards.
Guice gets the start as Redskins take 3-0 lead: For the first time since the first preseason game of last year, Derrius Guice got on the field for the Redskins. As soon as his team got the ball, he received a first-down handoff and picked up seven yards. Case Keenum then picked another first down with a short completion to Darvin Kidsy, and Guice was given another carry, picking up six yards. Two plays later Guice took a short pass for four yards, showing few ill effects from either his knee surgery or a subsequent hamstring injury. Eventually, the Redskins’ drive stalled, and Dustin Hopkins nailed a 48-yard field goal.
(Redskins 3, Falcons 0, 4:08 first quarter)
Fake punt helps Falcons’ opening drive, but they miss field goal: Having allowed punt returns for touchdowns in their first two preseason games, the Redskins didn’t take long to get burned again on special teams. This time, their defense appeared to force a three-and-out on Atlanta’s first series, but the Falcons picked up a first down with a fake punt on a 4th-and-1 play from their own 34. Matt Ryan then led a drive deep into Washington territory, but it stalled at the 16, and after Atlanta was flagged for a false start on another fourth-down play, Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.