October 7, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) catches a touchdown pass as Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (97) defends in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
Every week I choose the five best Falcons players and award them with their ‘wings’ based on solid overall performance, big explosive plays, or a combination of both. Here are the five from today:
Tight end Tony Gonzalez- Yeah, Gonzalez have 13 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. But his performance was so much more than that. Every time Ryan needed a chunk of yardage, he went to Tony. Whenever he needed a first down, there was Tony. Anytime he really needed anything, there was Tony. Probably the best moment was when Gonzalez nearly had a catch-and-run for a touchdown, but was marked just short. The next play the Falcons came back and Ryan trusted Gonzalez to make a play on the ball. Easy touchdown for arguably the greatest tight end of all time.
Wide receiver Julio Jones- After basically disappearing for two weeks, some were questioning Jones. He showed his worth in Washington. Jones had 10 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, but like Gonzalez he did things that simply didn’t show up in the box score. His 18-yard touchdown catch was remarkable. He needed to track the ball at its highest point, and keep two feet in bounds. It may not have even been his best catch of the day. But he looked to be on the same page as Matt Ryan, and made things really happen when they needed him to. Jones is a big time receiver, no doubt about it.
Quarterback Matt Ryan- This wasn’t his typical sparkling performance, but Ryan was still very good. Ryan completed 34 of his 52 attempts, good for two touchdowns and 345 yards. He threw the early interception, and didn’t look particularly sharp in the beginning parts of the game, but from the end of the 2nd quarter on, Matt Ryan showed why he’s been in the early MVP discussion. He also led his 18th career 4th quarter comeback, the most of any player through their first 5 seasons in the Super Bowl era. Now that’s having ice in your veins.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon- I don’t want to congratulate Spoon for knocking RGIII out of the game, because that’s pretty low, and I would never wish an injury on a player. But he played extremely tough and hard throughout the day. He also did a good job of being responsible for the quarterback when he ran, and that’s exactly the situation where Spoon was able to make a crushing, legal hit on Griffin. It kept the Redskins out of the end-zone, and that’s a crucial stop for any defense.
The Falcons secondary, especially Dunta Robinson & Thomas DeCoud- It was demoralizing when the Falcons defense completely blew coverage and allowed a rookie quarterback to complete a 77-yard touchdown pass. They could have mailed in the rest of the game and continued to give up big plays. But the hallmark of a productive defensive back is a short memory. I don’t know who blew coverage on that TD play, and since I’m not a member of the Falcons staff, I’ll probably never know. But the Falcons defenders made a good stand and picked off Cousins on two consecutive late 4th Qtr drives. Robinson’s was probably more unexpected and more clutch, but DeCoud’s was very useful as well. These defensive backs kept a short memory, and came back and created two big takeaways from Washington.