Several factors led to the Washington Redskins' 25-19 overtime loss Sunday at the Atlanta Falcons with the ultimate back-breaker occuring on the game's final play. Quarterback Kirk Cousins examined the interception-turned-touchdown Monday morning during his weekly radio spot on 106.7 The Fan with hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.
The Redskins were on the move with the first possession of overtime, taking the ball from their own 20-yard line to exactly midfield. On 2nd-and-8, Washington deployed five receivers, including Ryan Grant near the left sideline. That left the offensive line as the lone blockers. Atlanta sent five defenders to attack.
Cousins said he sensed the pressure would come from the left side where linebacker Nate Stupar lined up outside. Knowing he didn't have enough blockers, "the ball had to come out quick," Cousins said. Teams prepare for such scenarios with built in receiver "hot routes." In this case, Cousins explained, that target was Grant.
After receiving the shotgun snap, Cousins immediately went into backpedal mode with Stupar closing quick. Though looking left, Cousins said, "I felt a little unsure of where Ryan was."
Quarterbacks often throw semi-blind into areas because they've developed trust with a receiver during practice and previous game action. Passing windows don't stay opn for long, not with speedy defensive backs in pursuit. "Throw them with anticipation," Cousins said of the hot route.
We all know what happened next. Cousins threw toward the sidelines while backing up rather than stepping into the toss. Grant slipped on the route, leaving cornerback Robert Alford as the upright player in range. The Falcons cornerback caught the pass, maintained his balance and raced 59 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
[SPIN ROOM -- SEEKING POSITIVES FROM THE REDSKINS' OT LOSS]
Following the win, Alford credited his homework on Cousins' three-step drops for the winning play. "I trusted my instincts and the film study," Alford said, according to the Associated Press. "I just jumped it, and it was there for me to make a play on."
On Monday, Cousins told Paulsen and Rouhier he "thought he threw to safe spot," meaning toward the sideline. "Typically you dont want to throw inside," Cousins said. After reveiwing the film, it "looked like the ball was outside of Ryan" and that he would have had to jump to make the catch," Cousins said.
If Grant doesn't slip, he's at least in position to tackle Alford or at least knock him out of bounds. Perhaps he could have made the catch or at least knocked the ball down in pursuit of the grab. "Tough to say," Cousins said.
Last week Cousins played the role of hero as he connected with Pierre Garcon for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds. Just minutes before the interception, the QB helped Washington score 12 points in the fourth quarter. Starting the final drive of regulation from the Redskins 20-yard line while trailing 19-16 with 24 seconds left, he completed thre straight passes for 46 yards. That set up Dustin Hopkins' game-tying 52-yard field goal.
As it turned out, it all set up the wayward final play.
This is the charm of sports. The difference between hero and goat might be one play, one slip, one poor decision.
"This business is results based," Cousins said, "and the result is we lost."
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