LANDOVER, Md. — It’s been this way for most of the season.
The Falcons play tough and battle. The game comes down to a big play.
This week, with the Falcons threatening to score and take the lead, Washington came up with an interception in the end zone to secure a 19-13 victory on Sunday at FedEx Field with 55 seconds left to play.
“You’ve got to give credit to Washington,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “They made a play at the end. We had the look we wanted. The guy tipped the ball up, and he caught it.”
The Commanders improved to 7-5, while the Falcons dropped to 5-7 and severely hurt their wild-card playoff chances. With Tampa Bay’s loss to the Browns to drop to 5-6, the Falcons remain a half-game behind the Bucs for first place in the NFC South with five games to play.
Of the Falcons’ 12 games, nine have been one-score. They are now 4-5 in one-score games this season.
“That’s just insane,” rookie running back Tyler Allgeier said.
With the game on the line, the Falcons’ offense was stuck in the soggy field.
The Commanders took a 19-13 lead in the fourth quarter after Joey Slye made a 45-yard field goal.
With 9:05 left, the Falcons needed to put together a touchdown drive to take the lead, and they had two chances.
On first down, Atlanta’s Drew Dalman was beaten by Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne, who dropped Cordarrelle Patterson for a 3-yard loss. On second-and-13, Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota was sacked by Montez Sweat for a 9-yard loss. He got around right tackle Kaleb McGary.
On third-and-21 from the 14, the Falcons completed a 10-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheaus and were forced to punt.
Atlanta’s defense got a three-and-out to force the Commanders to punt.
“That was huge, but it wasn’t a surprise for us,” outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. “We know what we have to do, especially at the end of the game when it comes down to (crunch) time and it’s time for you to go make a stop.”
The Falcons’ offense got the ball back at its 16 with 5:03 to play.
After a pass to Parker Hesse for 9 yards and a run by Patterson for 5 yards, Mariota connected with Zaccheaus on a 45-yard pass to quickly move the ball to Washington’s 25-yard line.
Patterson picked up 2 yards and Allgeier 5 yards to get to Washington’s 19-yard line at the two-minute warning.
Allgeier powered his way to the 14 to pick up the first down. Patterson picked up 6 more yards to get to Washington’s 8. On second down, Patterson ran for 3 yards. On third-and-1 from Washington’s 5, Allgeier picked up the first down, but Sweat jumped offside.
The Falcons had the ball first-and-goal from the 2. Mariota was dropped for a 2-yard loss when he decided to keep the ball and misread Washington’s defensive end.
On the next play, Mariota’s pass intended for Patterson was tipped by Payne and intercepted by cornerback Kendall Fuller.
“I thought it was a great play call,” Mariota said. “(Patterson) was open. Unfortunately, he (Payne) got his hand up, made a play on it, and it bounced it away.”
Mariota had completed 15 of 25 passes for 174 yards, a touchdown and the key interception. He finished with a passer rating of 77.8.
The Falcons rushed for 167 yards on 29 carries (5.8 yards per carry).
But the Falcons’ run defense gave up 176 yards on 37 carries (4.8 yards per carry). Washington, the No. 1 team in time of possession, held the ball for 33 minutes, 9 seconds as it beat the Falcons at their game of keep-away.
Washington running back Brian Robinson rushed 18 times for 105 yards.
The Falcons and the Commanders battled to a 10-10 halftime tie.
The Falcons’ opening drive stalled at Washington’s 29-yard line. Younghoe Koo was summoned, and he made a 47-yard field goal to put the Falcons up 3-0. The 11-play scoring drive covered 46 yards and took 6:53 off the clock.
Atlanta’s defense put up little resistance on Washington’s opening drive. Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Robinson, who ran over cornerback Darren Hall on his way to the end zone. The play culminated a seven-play, 74-yard drive that took 4:21 off the clock.
The Falcons’ second possession stalled when wide receiver Drake London dropped a screen pass on third-and-2 on the Falcons’ 44.
After an exchange of punts, the Falcons put together a bruising 11-play drive that covered 77 yards and took 6:28 off the clock. Mariota capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt. Koo’s extra point made it 10-7 with 8:26 left in the second quarter.
The Falcons converted two third downs in the drive but were 4 of 10 for the game.
Also, the Falcons’ running backs took turns gashing the Commanders on the drive. Caleb Huntley had a 12-yard run, Mariota had an 11-yard run on third-and-2, Allgeier ripped off a 15-yard gain and Patterson had a 15-yard run.
The biggest play in the drive was a Mariota pass to London that picked up 22 yards on second-and-25 after a facemask penalty was called on Pruitt. He later atoned for the foul with his second touchdown catch of the season.
The Commanders answered with a field-goal drive. Slye made a 30-yard field goal to tie it at 10 with 1:50 left in the first half.
The Falcons tried to put some points up before halftime but stalled after getting stuffed on fourth-and-1. The Falcons got the ball right back after Heinicke tossed an interception to linebacker Mykal Walker.
The Falcons got into position for Koo to try a 58-yard field-goal attempt as time expired, but it was short.
Both teams punted to start the third quarter.
Washington got on the move by powering the ball at Atlanta’s defense. The Commanders used a steady dose of Robinson to move down the field. Heinicke tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Bates. Slye missed the PAT to make it 16-10 with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
Koo made a 48-yard field goal to make it 16-13 with 1:17 left in the third quarter.
When the Falcons needed a touchdown drive, they couldn’t come through.
“These games as you’re progressing through the season get better and bigger,” Mariota said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t pull this one out. But at the same time, we’ve got to bounce back and get ready for Pittsburgh.”
The Falcons are slated to play the Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Steelers (3-7) play Matt Ryan and the Colts (4-6-1) at 8:15 p.m. on “Monday Night Football.”
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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule
Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26
Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27
Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23
Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20
Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15
Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14
Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17
Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT
Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17
Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15
Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24
Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13
Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD
Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.
Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD
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