- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 4, 2018

LANDOVER — Minutes after the Redskins’ 38-14 loss Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons, safety D.J. Swearinger tweeted an exclamation-studded promise to disappointed Redskins fans: “Have Faith!!! We Gone Get It Right!! … We Will Bounce Back!!

Faith might be in short supply for fans who watched Matt Ryan and the Falcons carve up the Redskins defense, which had been the team’s strength this season.

But the Redskins, Swearinger wrote, “WILL” be better in the weeks to come.

They’ll need to be better — much better — than they were against Atlanta.

The defense gave up 350 yards passing, 491 yards total, and Ryan threw for four touchdowns.

The Redskins had won three straight games with defense and a strong rushing attack. Neither showed up in the home loss to the Falcons.

Washington’s defense was flat out of the gate. The unit was uncharacteristically bad on third down, allowing Atlanta to convert on 10 of 13 of its chances. Before the afternoon, the Redskins had ranked ninth in that category.

Even the team’s run defense — which allowed the second-fewest yards per game this season — was bad. The Redskins gave up a season-high 154 yards rushing.

“It did surprise me,” coach Jay Gruden said when asked about the defense’s slow start. “Really the way they were scoring, they had a bunch of third-down conversions in the first half. … For us to get a team like Atlanta, we have to get a team like them off the field on third down and we didn’t do it.”

This isn’t the first time the Redskins have been blown out this season. In Week 5, Washington lost 43-19 to the New Orleans Saints — a game in which the defense was humiliated and allowed big play after big play.

Their performance against the Falcons was different, though big plays were still a problem.

Swearinger, who isn’t shy about blasting his team’s preparation after losses, said the team’s Friday practice had been the best it had been all year.

Instead, Swearinger and other players said the Redskins failed to execute. Players said Atlanta did as expected — and was ruthlessly effective while doing it..

The Falcons were successful on play-action passes and took advantage of a talented group of playmakers. Star Julio Jones had seven receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Tevin Coleman had five catches for 68 yards and two scores. Calvin Ridley had 71 yards.

Washington missed too many tackles and Atlanta’s speed killed, with two touchdowns — one a screen pass that went for 39 yards and another a 40-yard burst — that saw Falcons racing through or past slow-footed defenders.

After their loss to the Saints, the Redskins cleaned up communication issues in the secondary and ripped off three straight.

Cornerback Josh Norman is confident they can do it again.

“You see me fretting?” Norman said. “You see me worried? It’s a game. It’s the NFL … I’m not going to go home and cry. None of that … We’ll be ready for next week.”

Down 14-0 on Sunday, the Redskins continued their struggles with playing from behind, though quarterback Alex Smith did throw for a season-high 306 yards, with one touchdown.

That wasn’t near enough, as Washington couldn’t keep pace. The Redskins committed too many crucial penalties (10 for 147 yards), many of which happened on offense.

Trailing early, Washington’s run game was ineffective and the team abandoned it. Adrian Peterson had just nine carries for 17 yards behind a makeshift offensive line.

Already without left tackle Trent Williams, recovering from thumb surgery, the Redskins lost linemen Shawn Lauvao (knee), Brandon Scherff (shoulder) and Morgan Moses (knee) during the game.

At 5-3, the Redskins have issues they must sort out. They still hold a lead in the NFC East, but don’t have much room for another setback.

Still, Smith said he feels good about where the team stands at midseason.

“We have to keep getting better at that halfway mark — obviously find ways to win games as you do march along,” Smith said. “It’s about the team playing their best football come the end of the year. We want to be one of those teams — we have to find a way to get there.”

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