Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons' report card: Alford erased shaky play, coaching

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Robert Alford returned an interception for a touchdown in overtime to lift the Falcons over the Washington Redskins and help Atlanta remain unbeaten. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter reports.

Robert Alford’s 59-yard interception return propelled the Falcons to a 25-19 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons needed all of running back Devonta Freeman’s 197 total yards as quarterback Matt Ryan was a turnover machine, was woefully off target and out of sync with Julio Jones.

The Falcons are off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 2012, which opened 8-0. Falcons coach Dan Quinn is the only rookie head coach in team history to start off 5-0.

Ryan and Jones were the two lowest graded Falcons on offense by

Here are the grades from the win:

Game balls: Devonta Freeman and Robert Alford. Freeman rushed for 153 yards on 27 carries and caught seven passes for 44 yards. Alford fought through a pass interference call to come back and win the game in overtime with an interception he returned for a touchdown.

Quarterbacks, D-plus. Ryan has had better days. Ryan completed 24 of 42 passes for 254 yards and finished with a 55.1 passer rating. It was Ryan’s lowest passer rating since he had a 48.6 in Week 2 against Cincinnati last season. It was Ryan’s lowest passer rating in a victory during his pro career. The Falcons beat Tampa Bay 13-10 on Dec. 14, 2009 when he had a 57.5 passer rating.

Running backs, A-minus. Freeman carried the offense, but was loose with the ball in the redzone. He had a fumble and didn’t secure the catch after breaking the plane. Coleman returned to the action with 3 yards on two carries. Freeman averaged 5.7 yards per carry. With Freeman’s rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, he became the first player with eight or more rushing touchdowns in a team’s first five games of a season since LaDainian Tomlinson (9) and Shaun Alexander (8) in 2005. The Falcons 176 rushing yards were the highest rushing total the offense has recorded since Week 17 of 2011 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (251 rushing yards). Freeman forced five missed tackles, which tied for the third most amongst running backs in Week 5. Freeman’s 5.7 yards per carry average tied for fourth most of any running back in Week 5.

Wide receivers/tight ends, C. Ryan was off, but there were too many dropped passes, too. Julio Jones had two and tight end Jacob Tamme had one. Jones and Tamme were targeted 10 times. Tamme caught eight for 94 yards. Jones only caught five of his targets for 67 yards. Roddy White had two catches off four targets for 23 yards. He had a clutch grab on fourth down in the fourth quarter. The Falcons need to get White more involved in the passing game. Tamme getting 10 targets? Nick Williams on a bomb? Get Roddy the football.

Offensive line, B. The run blocking was awesome for Freeman. But the pass protection was not special and may have led to some of Ryan’s errant passes. Ryan was sacked three times and hit three times. Ryan left the pocket three other times to avoid sacks. Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan broke loose for two tackles. Jake Long was active, but didn’t play. Right tackle Ryan Schraeder was the highest graded Falcon on offense in Week 5 by He gave up no hurries, no hits and just one sack allowed. Left guard Andy Levitre had another strong game. He gave up four hurries, no hits, and no sacks against the Redskins.

Defensive line, A. The Falcons shut down Washington's vaunted rushing attack, which was tops in the league and was averaging at 139.5 yards per game. The Falcons held Matt Jones to 20 yards rushing on 11 carries. Alfred Morris was held to 15 yards on eight carries. The Redskins had 51 yards on 24 carries for very strong 2.1 yards per carry. The pass rush didn’t produce much. Linebacker Nate Stupar had the only sack. Vic Beasley received his third straight negative grade from, but he did have two quarterback hurries.

Linebackers, A-plus: Joplo Bartu was announced as the starter for Justin Durant in the press box before the game, but Nate Stupar started for him as the Falcons opened in their nickel package. He finished with four tackles, a sack and one quarterback hurry. Paul Worrilow led the Falcons with nine tackles which included him sniffing a screen pass on third-down that force a field goal attempt with 2:42 left in regulation. If the Redskins scored a touchdown, they would have taken 20-12 lead.

Defensive backs, C-plus. The grade is so low because the defensive backs had four penalties. Desmond Trufant had two defensive holding calls (one was declined, the other was offsetting). Alford had a 42-yard defensive pass interference call and safety Ricardo Allen had an offensive holding call on special teams. The Falcons held Washington's Pierre Garcon to three catches. Alford big interception saved the day. The Falcons had three pass deflections.

Special teams, C-plus. Punter Matt Bosher had one punt for 51 yards. Matt Bryant, missed two straight field goals against the Redskins. Bryant snapped a streak of 14 straight makes dating back to last season, first hitting the right upright and next hitting the left upright. “It’s a very different feeling, but sometimes those days happen,” Bryant said. He had made all seven field goal attempts this season, including a 42-yard field goal midway through the second quarter Sunday. After some poor clock management near the end of the first half, Bryant attempted a 28-yarder with seconds remaining on the clock. The attempt hit the right upright and the Falcons trailed 7-3 at the break.The unthinkable happened in the third quarter when Bryant lined up for 48-yard field goal attempt and hit the left upright.

Coaching, C-minus. Quinn was a little shaky at the end of the first half with his clock management. The Falcons had to settle for a field goal attempt that hit the right upright. The Falcons also left the Redskins too much time on the clock at the end of regulation. The Skins used the 24 seconds to come down and force overtime. Also, the Falcons need to get Roddy White some passes. A scheme that doesn’t account for a four-time Pro Bowler until the fourth quarter is bizarre. A former NFL player confirmed that White has been open on several plays, but Ryan’s progression has taken him in other directions like to Nick Williams on a deep pass in the second quarter. Coaches Bobby Turner (running backs) and Chris Morgan (offensive line) have their units playing great.

How did the Falcons get to 5-0?

Here's a look back at the game stories, news and notes from their victories over the Redskins (25-19 in OT), Texans (48-21), Cowboys (39-28), Giants (24-20) and Eagles (26-24).

WASHINGTON GAME COVERAGE -- Falcons 25, Redskins 19 in OT

Falcons pull out 25-19 victory over Redskins in OT -- Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned in the Falcons' 25-19 win over the Redskins

Alford's 59-yard interception return saves the day

What the Falcons had to say after the 25-19 win

Ryan, offense struggle with turnovers

Mark Bradley column: The Frenetic Falcons: Five-and-oh-my!

Roddy White hears support from the crowd

15 comments from Dan Quinn on the Falcons' victory

Roddy White: 'I'll be a Falcons for life'

Tweetcap: Falcons beat Redskins in OT

TEXANS GAME COVERAGE -- Falcons 48, Texans 21

How the Falcons hammered the Texans -- Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 48-21 win over the Texans

Devonta Freeman stars again for the Falcons

What the Falcons had to say after pummeling the Texans

9 comments from Dan Quinn on the Falcons' victory

Jeff Schult'z column: Devonta Freeman, 7 TDs -- who didn't see that coming

Schraeder, Matthews keep Watt in check

Hankerson turns in a 100-yard receiving day (second of his career)

Houston's J.J. Watt tips hat to the Falcons

Former Falcons great Jessie Tuggle honored during Texans game

COWBOYS GAME COVERAGE -- Falcons 39, Cowboys 28

Falcons 39, Cowboys 28 -- Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 39-28 win over the Cowboys

Mark Bradley's short takes: Julio, Freeman and the defense

Devonta Freeman is catalyst for Falcons run game

QUOTEBOARD: What the Falcons had to say after beating Dallas

Julio Jones does it again: 12 catches, 164 yards and two touchdowns

Mark Bradley column: A dominant half shows what he Falcons could be

Offensive line cracked the run-game code

Ryan directed second-half fireworks show

Beasley help lead resurgence on defense

Where's Falcons wide receiver Roddy White?

GIANTS GAME COVERAGE -- Falcons 24, Giants 20

Falcons 24, Giants 20 -- Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned from Falcons' 24-20 win over the Giants

Mark Bradley column -- Don't stop believin': Dan Quinn's men are 2-0

A record day for Julio Jones: 13 receptions

Kroy Biermann: 'We're a ball-attacking team'


5 things we learned from Falcons' upset win over Eagles

Matt Ryan leads Falcons to 26-24 win over the Eagles

Jeff Schultz column: An impressive debut by Quinn's new Falcons

Mark Bradley column: A new year: The Falcons dig deep and hang on

Julio Jones moves into fifth on Falcons' all-time receiving list

Tevin Coleman powers new rushing attack

Ricardo Allen seals victory in first start at free safety

4 questions with Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones after the game

Falcons rookies Beasley, Jarrett make impact

Falcons' revamped offensive line shows positive signs

Falcons quotes after their victory over the Eagles

Falcons-Eagles: By The Numbers

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.