The Washington Football Team survived a wild, back-and-forth battle with the Atlanta Falcons and overcame a 10-point deficit with a 34-30 win. Here are five takeaways from the afternoon.
Taylor Heinicke and Terry McLaurin are ballers.
Heinicke, who threw a pair of interceptions in a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills a week ago, had a much stronger performance against the Falcons' defense by completing 23-of-33 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. Heinicke was accurate for most of the game, but he was at his best when Washington was down eight points with less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
With Washington driving at Atlanta's 17-yard line, Heinicke made some elusive moves to keep the play alive before completing a shot to McLaurin, who fought through coverage in the back of the end zone. Then, with just two minutes left, Heinicke found J.D. McKissic on the opposite end of the field, and the running back did the rest of the work on a diving 30-yard score to take the lead for good.
Speaking of McLaurin, the third-year receiver had his second 100-yard performance of the season with six receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 13 targets. It was the third-best statistical performance of his young career, and for what it's worth, Washington is 2-0 when McLaurin gets double-digit targets.
Cordarrelle Patterson fueled a big day from the Falcons' offense.
Cordarrelle Patterson has been known as one of the most dynamic players in the league today. He's played wide receiver, been a return specialist and has even been used as a running back by the Falcons. He lived up to his reputation against Washington with 126 total yards and three touchdowns.
Patterson was a key piece to Atlanta's offense early, receiving the first carry of the game, but he didn't really get his day started until the second quarter, when Atlanta was set up at Washington's 42-yard line. Patterson got past the secondary for the wide open score, giving the Falcons a 10-0 lead.
With just 14 seconds left in the second quarter, Patterson found paydirt again, this time scoring in the front corner of the end zone. Then, after Carter's kickoff return, Patterson capped off an eight-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown.
Patterson was the driving force behind Atlanta's best scoring performance of the season thus far. It finished the afternoon with 374 yards.
Curtis Samuel provided limited, but crucial reps.
Head coach Ron Rivera announced on Friday that Curtis Samuel, who practiced for the first time in almost a month last week, would be "ready to roll" against the Falcons. While Samuel is known for being an electric player, the primary question was how much Washington would use him.
The answer, as it turns out, was a limited amount, as he finished with four receptions for 19 yards, but the plays he did make were impactful. His first catch for Washington resulted in a third-down conversion. The biggest one, however, came in the third quarter when the offense faced a 4th-and-5. Washington elected to stay on the field, and Heinicke hit Samuel on the left sideline for a 10-yard gain. It ultimately led to a 21-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins that cut Atlanta's lead to one.
With this being Samuel's first game back from his groin injury, Washington will want to keep monitoring him to see how his body reacts to the workload. Depending on how he feels, it's safe to expect his workload to increase.
DeAndre Carter scores his first touchdown.
As solid as DeAndre Carter has been returning kicks in his four-year NFL career, he had never scored a touchdown. That changed Sunday afternoon.
Washington's three-point lead had been snatched away with just second left in the first half by Patterson's second touchdown of the day. While it wasn't a great way to close things out, the good news was that Washington had a chance to bounce back from the 11-play drive, as it received the ball to open the third quarter. It didn't have to wait long, as Carter burst through the middle of Atlanta's coverage for the 101-yard romp to the end zone, giving Washington a 19-17 lead.
The score was a definitive high point for Carter, who averaged 20.1 yards heading into Sunday's game. He's had some solid gains so far, including a 31-yarder against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown Washington has had in two years, and it's evidence that Rivera was right to invest in finding someone who specializes in special teams.
There's still plenty to work on before playing the Saints.
Washington is now back to 2-2 after a wild back-and-forth game with six lead changes. Rivera is happy to get the win, as he should be, but the head coach wants to be realistic. Washington has a long list of things to correct.
Every positive moment Washington had Sunday afternoon was countered by an error, and the same problems Washington has had all season reared their heads again. Patterson's first touchdown was because of an error by the secondary. Third downs on both sides of the ball continue to cause headaches; the defense allowed the Falcons to complete 63% of their conversion attempts. The offense couldn't find its footing until the second quarter.
Still, despite all that, Washington found a way to win the game. It has a talented New Orleans Saints team, which lost to the New York Giants in overtime, coming to FedExField for Week 5. And Rivera knows Washington can't keep waiting until the last minute to win games. It needs to get back to work and continue trying to fix its issues.