ASHBURN — Paul Worrilow was not going to let Jamison Crowder dance his way out of another negative play.
Earlier in the second quarter, the Atlanta Falcons’ inside linebacker had a chance to tackle Crowder behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-10. Instead, the Washington Redskins’ speedy wide receiver slipped past Worrilow and turned the screen pass into a 14-yard gain.
With 2:49 to play in the fourth quarter and the Redskins leading the Falcons, 13-12, they tried the same play on third-and-goal. Worrilow sniffed it out as Crowder motioned to the left side of the formation, and tight end Derek Carrier never had much of a chance to block him. Worrilow tackled Crowder for a four-yard loss, and the Redskins settled for a field goal.
Coach Jay Gruden was critical of his own play calling on Monday afternoon and irate that the team squandered an opportunity to take a seven-point lead at a critical moment. Had the Redskins scored a touchdown at the end of that drive, it could have been a reason they would have won the game.
Instead, they lost in overtime, 25-19, after Robert Alford intercepted a pass from Kirk Cousins and returned it for a touchdown.
“That was awful,” Gruden said, when asked about the decision to throw a screen pass late. “Probably too conservative. We got it earlier in the game. … Crowder broke it and almost scored. We thought we’d get the same look. [Worrilow] bossed over a little bit wider this time and our tight end couldn’t quite get out there and get him. He made a good play.
“But we had a lot of other good plays we could have gone to in that situation. It’s one of those things — if it worked, we’re all high-fiving on the sidelines, but it didn’t work and we’re all very upset at the call. You’d just like to have, instead of a one-man show, you’d like to give the quarterback a few more options.”
In overtime, the Redskins won the coin toss and received the ball first. On the fourth play of the drive, Cousins completed a 17-yard pass to Crowder to get the Redskins to their own 48-yard line. Two plays later, Cousins’ pass to Ryan Grant was intercepted by Alford and returned 59 yards.
Grant slipped trying to get to the ball and Cousins’ throw was too far toward the sideline. It was unclear where the miscommunication was, and after the game, Gruden refrained from assigning blame.
On Monday, he did the same, chalking it up to an unfortunate play. The only thing that was certain was the Falcons brought pressure on the left side, forcing Cousins to hurry the throw.
“It was a tough deal,” Gruden said. “We slid the protection one way and they brought a guy off the left side so Kirk had to get rid of the ball quickly. He threw the ball before Ryan Grant turned around, and when Ryan Grant was about to turn around, he stumbled.
“Whether it would have been complete or whether it would still have been intercepted, we don’t know. I know that Ryan just got a turf monster and fell down. Kirk felt the need to get rid of it. You don’t want to take a sack there in a big situation, so that’s what happened. It was just an unfortunate play.”
Though the pick-six was the defining moment, it was not the only opportunity the Redskins had to win the game.
The Redskins’ defense forced three turnovers and only turned them into three points. Strong safety Trenton Robinson intercepted Matt Ryan’s pass intended for Julio Jones on the Falcons’ fifth play of the game.
Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Redskins made it 31 yards before their drive ended with a Tress Way punt.
With 2:26 to play in the first half, defensive end Chris Baker sacked Ryan, who fumbled the ball as he fell to the ground. Inside linebacker Will Compton recovered the ball at the Washington 13-yard line and the Redskins went three-and-out on the ensuing possession.
Bashaud Breeland’s fourth-quarter interception was the third turnover of the game, and he returned it to the Atlanta 28-yard line. It set up the drive that ended with kicker Dustin Hopkins’ 28-yard field goal after the failed screen pass.
Hopkins missed a 53-yard field goal earlier in the game, but made a 52-yard attempt as regulation expired. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant missed two field goals — a 38-yard attempt at the end of the half and a 48-yard try on the first drive of the third quarter.
“The good teams that are 5-0 right now … they’re converting turnovers into points and they’re protecting the football,” Gruden said. “We have to do a better job of once we get a big play like that, we’ve got to put our foot on their throat and make it a bigger play. And, vice versa: If we do give up a big play, we’ve got to try to stop the bleeding somehow.
“We did that. We had a sudden change yesterday, our defense did a nice job of getting a stop and they missed a field goal. There are some good things but we do need to do a better job of converting, making big plays bigger.”