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Defense, run game power Commanders past Falcons

Nov 27, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) has his face mask grabbed by Washington Commanders cornerback Christian Holmes (34) while running with the ball during the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kendall Fuller intercepted a batted pass in the end zone with 1:03 left to preserve Washington’s 19-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons and continue the Commanders’ playoff drive Sunday in Landover, Md.

With Atlanta threatening to take the lead at the Washington 4-yard line, Daron Payne batted a pass by Marcus Mariota at the line of scrimmage and Fuller came down with the fluttering ball just inside the goal line.

In a close-to-the-vest game played in a steady rain, Taylor Heinicke threw two touchdown passes and Brian Robinson Jr. ran for a career-high 105 yards on 18 carries as Washington (7-5) won for the sixth time in its last seven games.

The Commanders relied on their defense and a conservative game plan that included 37 rushes and 23 passes. The defense rose in the second half, limiting Atlanta to three points. Midway through the fourth quarter Montez Sweat wrecked another Atlanta possession with a sack.

Atlanta (5-7) was led by Mariota, who completed 15 of 25 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. He also ran six times for 49 yards.

Tyler Allgeier carried 11 times for 54 yards and Cordarrelle Patterson added 11 rushes for 52 yards as the Falcons averaged 5.8 yards per attempt.

Mariota triggered the potential game-winning drive when he ducked under pressure from Payne and threw to open receiver Olamide Zaccheaus on a 45-yard play to the Washington 25.

After Fuller’s interception, the Atlanta defense forced an apparent three-and-out. But Adetokunbo Ogundeji was flagged for running into punter Tress Way, ending Atlanta’s hopes.

In the first half, both teams had a field goal and a touchdown for a 10-10 deadlock at the break.

Washington’s touchdown came when Heinicke threw a short pass to Robinson, who powered through tacklers and avoided the sideline on a 14-yard play to give the Commanders a 7-3 lead.

The Falcons regained the edge in the second quarter with a 77-yard march finished off by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to MyCole Pruitt.

In the third quarter, Washington took the lead with a 60-yard drive that was all on the ground until Heinecke used a play-action fake and found John Bates alone in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown pass.

After Joey Slye missed the extra point, Atlanta cut the deficit in half, 16-13, with a 48-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo.

Washington answered with 9:05 left as Slye made a 45-yard field goal for a 19-13 lead.

–Field Level Media