The running game played an important part in the outcome of Sunday’s game between visiting Atlanta and Washington.
The Falcons, who might be considered run-challenged without All-Pro tailback Devonta Freeman and a patchwork offensive line, were dynamite while rushing the ball. The Redskins, who had made their bones running the ball on offense and stopping it on defense, failed to do either.
The result was a 38-14 victory for Atlanta, which defeated Washington for the sixth straight time, evened its record and perhaps even rejoined the conversation for the playoffs.
“We knew this team was exceptional in that area,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. “So to find some space, we knew the play-action pass was going to be a factor and it for sure was, to create some lanes for these guys to get going on the run game.”
Atlanta rushed 24 times for 154 yards. Tevin Coleman carried 13 times for 88 yards and rookie Ito Smith had 10 rushes for 60 yards and one touchdown. Coleman also had five catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
“We thought there was something with Tev coming into this game,” Quinn said. “And we certainly thought it with the offensive line. So I was glad to see the work they put in showed some of the benefits.”
Washington cornerback Josh Norman said, “That was tough for us. I don’t think anyone expected that. It kind of hit us in the face.”
The Atlanta defense put the clamps on the Redskins’ rushing game, too. Adrian Peterson, coming off a 149-yard game last week, carried nine times for only 17 yards — 11 on one carry. The Redskins managed only 79 yards on the ground.
“It was very big,” said safety Damontae Kazee, who intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to dash any hopes of a Washington comeback. “The defensive line and linebackers killed them. They showed up. They did their job, so we could do our job. We do our job so they can do their job at the end of the day.”
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said, “We knew we had to come and dominate up front with a running back (Peterson) like that. We did and everybody was gap sound and we did a good job tackling today.”
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed 26 of 38 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns — two to Coleman, one to Calvin Ridley and one to Julio Jones — his first of the season. He threw one interception, which came when Ridley went the wrong direction on a pattern. Jones had seven catches for 121 yards and Ridley had six receptions for 71 yards.
“They went to work on us,” Norman said. “They did a good job. You got to tip your hat to them. They came in rolling.”
Atlanta converted 10 of 13 third-down plays, even better than its season average of 50 percent.
Washington quarterback Alex Smith completed 30 of 46 passes for 306 yards and one touchdown. Maurice Harris caught 10 passes for 124 yards and Vernon Davis had five receptions for 62 yards.
The win was the third straight for the Falcons (4-4) and dropped Washington to 5-3, although the Redskins remain in first place in the NFC East.
“I’m proud of the way we played today,” Ryan said. “Obviously, the start of the season was not what we were looking for, but we’re halfway through it. We’re 4-4 and in the mix. I think the good football teams that I have been a part of in my career are the ones that have gotten better as the year went along. We need to keep improving and keep getting better week to week.”