- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 15, 2013

ATLANTA — They came in endless varieties, each one a special source of frustration for the Redskins.

Turnovers often spell the difference in the NFL, where parity keeps the talent level between most teams relatively even. But Washington pushed its luck on Sunday in an eventual 27-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Redskins finished the game with seven turnovers, the most by a team in any NFL game this season. The last time an NFL team had eight in a game was Dec. 9, 2012 when the Arizona Cardinals accomplished that dubious feat and lost to Seattle 58-0.

And so they could consider themselves fortunate to even be in the game at all against Atlanta with a chance to win it on a 2-point conversion in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

“I told them in the locker room, I don’t think I’ve been involved with a team that had seven turnovers and a chance to win it,” Washington coach Mike Shanahan said. “So I was very pleased with the effort that they showed and disappointed in some of the mistakes that we made.”

Shanahan preaches ball security with relentless passion. But some of his best players let him down. Maybe the two interceptions by backup quarterback Kirk Cousins were to be expected. He was playing for the first time all season, after all, thanks to the deactivation of Robert Griffin III.

But running back Alfred Morris fumbled the ball twice as did wide receiver Santana Moss – one of those on a punt return that gave the Falcons possession deep in Redskins territory. Cousins also fumbled when he was hit in the pocket by Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora and had the ball knocked from his hand.

“We didn’t do enough to win,” Cousins said. “Two interceptions were on me. A fumble that you don’t want to have. The two-point conversion, the failed attempt there, I felt like that was on me, and those are four plays right there that if they go differently, it’s a much better result. It’s a tough one to swallow right now.”

Cousins insisted that on both of his interceptions, the wide receiver was open. The first one was intended for Aldrick Robinson over the middle on a drive that was just starting from the Redskins’ 1. Just one play later, Atlanta running back Stephen Jackson smashed into the end zone to make it 24-20 Falcons. That interception was especially deflating because it came immediately after Washington’s defense had stoned Atlanta on a 4th down play from the 1.

Cousins second interception also came on the first play of a drive. The Redskins still trailed 24-20 with 5:45 left to play. Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant jumped in front of Pierre Garcon and wrestled the ball away at the 39. Washington’s defense held Atlanta to a 51-yard Matt Bryant field goal. Both pass patterns were similar routes, according to Cousins, where he didn’t lead the receiver enough.

Morris’ fumbles were equally painful, especially considering he’d fumbled just once all season. Morris fumbled at 10:04 of the second quarter with the Redskins in scoring position at the Atlanta 18. The next one came at 8:49 of the fourth quarter, again with the score 24-20 Falcons. That halted another good scoring opportunity at the Atlanta 13.

“Just when you get in there, you’re fighting for extra yards,” Morris said. “Sometimes the ball can come off from your body. You don’t keep all your pressure points on it. That’s kind of one of those thin lines you toe when you want to get as many yards as you can, but at the same time you got to protect it.”

Moss, meanwhile, muffed a punt at 12:48 of the second quarter that led to another Atlanta field goal. He said afterwards that he was trying to get out of the way after realizing the ball wasn’t catchable. Moss believed he was interfered with by a Falcons player who knocked into him, but wasn’t sure if the contact was illegal or not.

Moss also fumbled later in the second quarter after a 17-yard catch. That again cut short a promising scoring drive at the 10.

“It’s sad, you know what I mean? But all we can do is fight,” Moss said. “I mean, honestly, right now, I’m proud with the production we put out there. Everybody goes out there for a win, and we came up short with that, but if we continue to play like that these last few games, man, what more could we ask for?”

• Brian McNally can be reached at bmcnally@washingtontimes.com.

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