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Key matchup: Redskins QB Robert Griffin III vs. Falcons defense

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
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By Dan Parr

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III vs. Falcons defense

While the Falcons’ defense had stifled pocket passers in each of the first three games of the season, it struggled against the mobile, strong-armed Cam Newton in Week Four.

Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Giants in which he compiled a career low 40.6 passer rating, Newton completed 15-of-24 passes for 215 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He rushed for a career-high 86 yards and a TD on nine carries (9.6 average).

It was not enough to get the Panthers a win, but it did send a bit of a wake-up call to the Falcons’ defense.

Atlanta will face a similar test in Week Five against Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, and the “D” should have a better idea of what it will take to slow down the rookie signalcaller, Falcons head coach Mike Smith acknowledged, after playing Carolina.

“We got an idea of what worked and what didn’t work (vs. the Panthers),” Smith said. “We’re going to be facing a very similar offense. Robert Griffin III is not nearly as big (as Newton). I think he’s got more foot speed than the quarterback that we just played, so we’re going to have some different issues.”

Indeed — while RG3 is not as much of a load to bring down as Newton is, his quickness and elusiveness have wreaked havoc on defenses through the first quarter of the season. He’s going to make explosive plays. The key for Atlanta is to limit them. The Falcons have to do a better job of tackling than they did last week against Newton and the Panthers.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan could consider putting a spy on RG3. It would commit five players — four defensive linemen and a linebacker — to the quarterback with six players dropping into coverage. It sounds like a fine plan, but, obviously, RG3 is athletic enough to elude the five defenders monitoring him in the pocket or make a play with his arm vs. six players in coverage.

Four games into his career, RG3 has taken a lot of hits, but he has shown no fear. He is fourth in the league in passer rating (103.2). He’s second in the league in rushing among rookies (only teammate Alfred Morris is head of him) and he’s tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (four). He has the potential to leave the Falcons’ defense frustrated Sunday.

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