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December 16, 2013

Falcons cause 7 turnovers, beat Redskins

Atlanta — Kirk Cousins’ first start of the season produced 381 yards passing — more than Robert Griffin III has had in a game.

Cousins also threw three touchdown passes, including a 3-yarder to Santana Moss to cap a 13-play, 80-yard drive that could have tied or won the game.

Despite all the yards, Cousins and the Redskins were left to bemoan the seven turnovers they couldn’t overcome in Sunday’s 27-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Cousins, a second-year quarterback appearing in only his third game of the season, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.

He said those mistakes and his inability to complete a pass on a potential winning 2-point conversion with 18 seconds remaining cost the Redskins the game.

“We just didn’t do enough to win,” Cousins said. “Two interceptions that were on me. A fumble that you don’t want to have. The failed attempt at a 2-point conversion, that was on me. Those are four plays right there that if they go differently, it’s probably a much better result.”

Cousins completed 29 of 45 passes. He started following coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to bench Griffin. Griffin, whose career high is 329 yards passing, watched from the sideline.

“I thought he did well,” Shanahan said of Cousins. “Though anytime you have seven turnovers — I don’t think I have ever been in a close game and there were seven turnovers. We have to eliminate those to have a chance to win.”

The furor created by Shanahan’s move at quarterback followed the team to Atlanta. Redskins fans held signs which read “Free RGIII” and “We still believe in RGIII.”   

Falcons rookie Desmond Trufant deflected Cousins’ pass for Pierre Garcon on the 2-point play.

The Falcons (4-10) scored 20 points off seven Washington turnovers. The Redskins (3-11) tied a team record with five lost fumbles. Alfred Morris and Santana Moss each lost two fumbles.

“You can’t win with turnovers, yet we still had an opportunity to win and that shows you how hard they fought,” Shanahan said.

“Those guys normally are great with ball security and don’t turn it over.”

Shanahan said Cousins showed good composure for a quarterback with so little experience.

“It was the first time he had seen some playing time in a while,” Shanahan said. “It’s nice to see him go out there and play with a lot of confidence. I thought he kept his composure back there and did a heck of a job in leading us down the field. Just proud of the way he handled himself.”

Shanahan said his decision to go for 2 was based on the Falcons’ defensive alignment. He said he would have used his final timeout to send his kicking team on the field if the Falcons didn’t have the alignment he wanted for his planned play.

“I thought if we had the right defense and the right play, we’re going to stay with it,” Shanahan said. “We thought we did and unfortunately it didn’t work out.”

Shanahan brushed off a question about his job status, saying “I’m not going to talk about that.”

Linebacker Brian Orakpo said the attention surrounding Shanahan’s status and the switch at quarterback were not distractions in the game.

“You have to ignore it,” Orakpo said. “Once you’re in between the lines, everything else is out the window. That’s what happened today. Regardless of all the drama that went on, we came out here to try to win a ballgame. We fell short but fought very hard to the end.”

Cousins said he liked the decision to go for 2.

“I loved the call to go for 2 there,” Cousins said. “I felt like we had them on the ropes. We just didn’t do enough to execute, but it starts right here with me.”

The Falcons recovered an onside kick to seal the win.

“It was a game full of drama, but I’m glad we were able to pull it off,” said Atlanta’s Steven Jackson, who ran for 38 yards and two touchdowns.

Morris had 98 yards rushing on 18 carries, including a 37-yard run.

Cousins lost a fumble on the Redskins’ first possession and set up the Falcons’ go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter with his first of two interceptions.

The Falcons led 24-20 with less than 6 minutes remaining before Trufant’s interception set up Matt Bryant’s 51-yard field goal.

The teams combined for six turnovers in the first half, including four fumbles by the Redskins. There were lost fumbles on three straight plays in the second quarter.

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