LANDOVER, Md.—From the backfield and the benches alike, Atlanta Falcons players flocked to their star receiver, eager to join him someplace he hadn’t been all season—the end zone.
Chants of “Ju-li-o, Ju-li-o,” reverberated at FedEx Field following Julio Jones’ first touchdown of 2018, which came with 3:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. By that point, there weren’t nearly enough Washington supporters left to drown them out.
Atlanta’s offense made an equally loud statement in Sunday’s 38–14 victory, shredding Washington’s vaunted run stopping unit to the tune of 6.4 yards per carry. The Falcons enjoyed similar success whenever they opted to throw, with Matt Ryan passing for 350 yards and four touchdowns.
“They caught us with our pants down and hit us in the mouth,” Washington cornerback Josh Norman said simply.
Though, many of Washington’s wounds were self inflicted. Head coach Jay Gruden’s squad drew 10 penalties for 147 yards, some infractions effectively ending drives before they got started.
“Every time we made a play, every time we got something going, there was a flag on the ground,” quarterback Alex Smith said.
After Washington went three and out on its opening possession, Atlanta running back Tevin Coleman caught a screen pass and snaked 39 yards along the left sideline for the game’s first touchdown. Jones paved the way for Atlanta’s second score, sealing the edge on Ito Smith’s 12-yard scamper early in the second quarter.
“We were going to come out, and we were going to run the ball,” said Jones, who finished with seven catches for 121 yards.
Outside of a spectacular 22-yard scramble that primed Washington’s first touchdown, Smith did little to justify his hefty price tag in a trade this offseason.
While Smith led Washington to its only third-quarter touchdown of the season, Kapri Bibbs’ 3-yard run provided nothing but statistical solace. A resurgent Adrian Peterson struggled behind a patchwork offensive line, picking up just 17 yards on nine carries.
Already absent starting left tackle Trent Williams following thumb surgery, Washington lost left guard Shawn Lauvao to a first-quarter knee injury. Right guard Brandon Scherff will receive an MRI for his banged-up shoulder on Monday.
Were even one more offensive lineman to go down, defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis would’ve been pressed into duty at guard for the first time since his days at Hunterdon (N.J.) Central Regional High School.
“That’s panic time,” Gruden said of the scenario.
The same can’t be said of Washington’s midseason outlook. Despite Sunday’s loss, Washington (5–3) will wake up Tuesday atop the NFC East. Second-place Philadelphia (4–4) has a bye, while Dallas (3–4) hosts the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
Washington travels to Tampa Bay (3–5) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
“It was a tough loss, but we just got to keep our head up,” said Washington’s Maurice Harris, who recorded his first career 100-yard receiving game. “It’s over with. We’ll correct it and move on.”