The Falcons will look to make history on Sunday as they try to go 5-0 for the first time in team history. In order for that to happen, they will have to take down the Washington Redskins led by quarterback Robert Griffin III.
With the help of Griffin and head coach Mike Shanahan’s unique offense, the Redskins are off to a 2-2 start to their season, including a dominating win against New Orleans and a come from behind win against Tampa Bay last week.
Griffin has been sharp in his first four games, completing 69 percent of his passes and has a QB rating of 103. But it’s the running game that has been effective for the ‘Skins as they average 175 yards per game.
The reason for their success on the ground is the zone blocking scheme the Redskins run, which is the same offense Shanahan used during his time at Denver. So not only will the Falcons front seven have to try and contain Griffin, they will also have to not let Alfred Morris run wild who has 376 yards and four touchdowns this season.
The Falcons have struggled on run defense this year as they average 146 yards allowed per game. Linebackers Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas will have to play disciplined football and make the running backs come to them. If they can do that, the defense can pi their ears back and get after Griffin in the passing game. The Falcons are ranked eighth in the NFL in pass defense and part of it has to do with the unit coming up with 10 sacks and seven interceptions. John Abraham leads the team with three sacks and the safety combo of William Moore and Thomas DeCoud have five of the team’s seven picks. The Falcons also lead the league in takeaways with 10.
If the Falcons defense continues to make plays, the offense will continue to thrive. Through the first four games, the Falcons have scored 27 or more points in each game, thanks to the play of Matt Ryan. The current NFC Offensive Player of the Month leads the NFL with a 112 QB rating and second in the league with 11 touchdown passes. Nine of his TD passes have gone to the trio of Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and the team’s leading receiver Roddy White.
The one thing the Falcons would like to get better at is the pass protection as Ryan was sacked seven times last week against Carolina. Washington only has 10 sacks on the year, but Ryan Kerrigan is a guy that can get after the quarterback. Tyson Clabo had a tough time stopping Charles Johnson last week and will look to have a better game protecting Ryan’s blind side.
The Falcons also like to get the run game going like they did last week. Michael Turner had a season high 103 rushing yards and seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses. The Redskins have been stout against the run, averaging 89 yards allowed per game but the loss of Brian Orakpo has hurt the Redskins in the passing game as they averaged 326 passing yards allowed per game.
The individual matchup to watch is White taking on former Falcon DeAngelo Hall. White is fifth in the league receiving yards and is playing much better football that last season. Hall leads the Redskins 28 tackles and one interception. He would love nothing more than to get a win against his former team while taking down one of the league’s best receivers in White.
The Falcons know they will have their hands full on offense and defense. They have to contain RGIII and make sure to locate Hall and linebacker London Fletcher at all times. After a tough win against Carolina last week, expect the Falcons to come out faster and more rejuvenated against the Redskins. If that happens, the Falcons should cruise to their fifth win of the year.