The Washington Football Team beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-30 on Oct. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (AP Photo)
By Mark F. Gray
Special to the AFRO
The stimulus package that is the Washington Football Team’s defense continued and their special teams nearly cost them versus the Atlanta Falcons. Their struggles to stop the Falcons on third down and Dustin Hopkins’ inability to make an extra point put them in a position to need a bailout.
Terry McLaurin, J.D. McKissic and Taylor Heinicke provided what should be considered an extension of Hopkins’ benefits in a 34-30 victory that personified their season. McLaurin, Heinicke and McKissic wouldn’t have needed to defibrillate this win if not for two missed extra points by the seemingly untouchable Hopkins, which found the Football Team in a hole as they started what would ultimately become the game winning drive.
Nonetheless, Washington enters the second month of the season tied with the Dallas Cowboys for first place in the NFC eastern division. At 2-2 they remain in playoff contention despite a defense that has grossly underachieved and an offense that is evolving.
Washington’s defense – who the team is supposed to be built on – continues to struggle these days. They surrendered 374 yards and 24 first downs to the NFL’s 25th ranked defense. The Football Team now ranks 29th of 32 teams in total defense. Chase Young is seen more in commercials than he is sacking quarterbacks, while the secondary continues giving up huge plays through blown coverages and the inability to close out plays when in position to make them.
Heinicke finished the game by winning the statistical battle over Super Bowl veteran Matt Ryan. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns- the final two were in the final 3:52 to give Washington the win.
McLaurin finished with six catches for 123 yards and one touchdown.
”No play is ever dead when Taylor’s back there,” said McLaurin. ”I just knew Taylor was gonna give me a chance.”
Hopkins missed two more extra points last Sunday which forced another memorable comeback against an average team who outplayed them and deserved to win. He has started the season by consistently missing what are basic field goals for a professional kicker. In Washington’s first win over the New York Giants, Hopkins missed his first attempt at the game winner, but they jumped offsides. Ultimately, the second time was the charm for that walk off victory on Thursday night football.
Washington’s defense also provided a drink from the fountain of youth for a fantasy football owner if Ryan was in their lineup. The previous NFL MVP and author of the biggest choke in Super Bowl history, had his way with the Football Team’s defense for most of the game. He finished 25 of 42 passing for 283 yards and four touchdowns. He continued their season-long frustration helping the Falcons convert 10 of 16 third down opportunities, which gave them an early lead.
The offseason prized acquisition Curtis Samuel finally made his debut for Washington after being activated off the injured reserve list. The potential game changing wide receiver caught only five balls for 19 yards, but his presence appears to be ready to give McLaurin help from the other side of the field and open up the passing game to make life easier for Heinicke.
”It was exciting to be back on the field,” said Samuel, who played four years in Carolina with coach Ron Rivera before signing with Washington in free agency. ”I’m happy we got the win.”
Their trip through the NFC South continues with a visit from the streaky New Orleans Saints Sunday at FedEx Field.
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