#1. Bashaud Breeland
No Redskins player impressed me as much as Breeland did on Sunday. It was, without a doubt, the best game I've seen from a Washington defensive back this season. He made a handful of really impressive tackles, especially in the open field, and finished with eight in total, but what was most impressive to me was his on-ball play. Officially credited with four passes defended, Breeland seemed to have a hand on or around every Matt Ryan pass. The interception he had wasn't necessarily an outstanding play on the ball, but he managed to pick up about 20 yards more on the return than it initially looked like he would and gave the Redskins great field position.
More impressive than the interception, to me, were two plays he made to deflect balls away from the intended receivers. The first came on a 1st-and-10 from the Washington 32 at the 12:07 mark of the third quarter. Ryan targeted Roddy White on the sideline and Breeland jumped the route, barely edged around White and batted the ball away before it could get to White. The Falcons picked up just two more yards that drive, which ended with Matt Bryant's second missed field goal of the day.
The second play was immediately before the touchdown/incomplete pass to Devonta Freeman late in the fourth quarter. Ryan targeted Leonard Hankerson in the endzone, and Breeland, risking a defensive pass interference that would've put the ball at the 1, dived in front of Hankerson to swat the pass away. Seriously, what a game for Breeland.
#2. Ryan Kerrigan
Welcome back, Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan struggled to get going this season after injuries sidetracked him, but you could see the progress on a week-to-week basis. Against the Eagles, he started getting good jumps off the line and getting to the quarterback, he just missed two sacks that he probably would have had if fully healthy. Against Atlanta, he had no such issues. He finished with two sacks and also made a terrific play early in the second half to peel back and make the tackle on Freeman after Ryan hit him with a dump-off.
#3. Will Blackmon
Blackmon is a curious situation. He came to the Redskins less than a month ago, ended up playing well enough to render David Amerson obsolete (though, admittedly, that was more Amerson's doing than Blackmon's) and got his first start Sunday against the Falcons. He made some mistakes and was beaten a few times, but he did his job and didn't blow the game. When your top four cornerbacks heading into the season are Chris Culliver, DeAngelo Hall, Breeland and Amerson, and your cornerbacks in Week 5 are Breeland, Blackmon and Kyshoen Jarrett, you have to take any positives you can get. Blackmon deserves a lot of credit for coming into a tough situation and playing well.
Honorable Mentions: Dashon Goldson, Jamison Crowder, Trenton Robinson, Chris Baker
#1. Kirk Cousins + Receivers' footing + Robert Alford
All three members of the Bad list are atypical this week, but it was a weird game, so go with it.
There has been a lot of discussion in the days since Cousins' game-ending interception in overtime about who deserved the blame, Cousins or Ryan Grant. I definitely think both deserve some blame, but I put the heftier weight on the quarterback's shoulders, because even if Grant is upright, that's not a good throw. Catchable? Probably. A good throw? Definitely not. He threw off his back foot and turned his head away as he threw it. It was also on a 2nd-and-8, so it's not as if it was a necessary throw to make. Finally, Cousins never seems to notice linebacker Nate Stupar stepping forward to blitz; Cousins is looking to his right to make adjustments to his receivers as Stupar walks up to the line, and he takes the snap without ever looking back to his left where Stupar is now lining up unblocked. Stupar gets to Cousins completely untouched and forces the off-balance throw.
But what's weird is it was the second interception of the game, both for Cousins and Robert Alford, in which a Redskins receiver fell. Cousins threw behind a crossing Pierre Garcon, who slipped trying to double back to make the grab. It was a lucky bounce for Alford, who had the ball pop up right in front of him, but it was a missed throw by Cousins that forced Garcon to make a quick step in an awkward direction, and that led to an easy pick for Alford. Cousins wasn't bad throughout the game, though I wouldn't say he was great, but he missed those two throws and, because of some bad luck, it cost him and the Redskins.
#2. Run game
Remember that vaunted Redskins' run game? The one-two punch of Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, affectionately dubbed MoJo earlier in the season? Yeah, try 19 carries for 35 yards. Morris hardly appeared in the second half, and Jones was only slightly more present. According to Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jones played just 20 of the Redskins' 61 offensive snaps and Morris played a pitiful 14. So much for not abandoning the run game. Also, it's quite evident how much they miss Shawn Lauvao.
Redskins snap counts, offense and defense. Trent Murphy 58 plays, Preston Smith 31. Crowder 49, Roberts 9. pic.twitter.com/lt5wCUPQgI— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) October 12, 2015
But what about the other side of the ball? Washington had been so good at stopping opposing rushing attacks, but it got cut up by Freeman to the tune of 27 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps it's because the Redskins were so focused on stopping the dynamic passing attack that they ignored the run?
#3. Offensive playcalling
I've given the Redskins' offensive coaches a hard time for this since last season, but to their credit, they've gotten better. Even in this game, it wasn't especially bad. The one time it really failed was the second-to-last Redskins drive in regulation, when they were working off a Breeland interception in Falcons territory. That was when Morris should have been carrying the ball, not Jones, who has a track record of fumbling. And just because screen passes to Jamison Crowder worked earlier in the game does not mean one should be drawn up for 3rd-and-goal on the 6. Washington had a chance to go up by eight, but the plays drawn up did not match the situation, and a chip shot field goal was all it could muster.