ATLANTA (AP)Jamin Davis sensed where the final pass was going before it left the quarterback’s hand.
He wasn’t the only member of the Washington Commanders defense who appeared to see things so clearly.
Davis snagged the last of three second-half interceptions against Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder, sealing Washington’s 24-16 victory over the Falcons on Sunday.
Sam Howell threw three short passes for touchdowns, but it was the guys on the other side of the line who bowed up when it mattered most to snap Washington’s three-game losing streak.
“Our defense did a good job of putting us in good situations with the turnovers,” Howell said.
Coming off a 40-20 home loss to the lowly Chicago Bears, the Commanders (3-3) redeemed themselves a bit against the mistake-prone Falcons (3-3).
“You always want to get that bad taste out of your mouth,” Davis said.
Howell shook off five more sacks – he’s now been dumped 34 times this season – to complete 14 of 23 passes for 151 yards in a close-to-the-vest passing game. The Commanders also showed more balance, rushing for 72 yards after dropping back to pass on their final 55 snaps against the Bears.
But it was the Washington defense – along with a 61-yard punt return by Jamison Crowder – that set the tone for the Commanders.
Kendall Fuller grabbed the first interception against Ridder, returning it deep into Atlanta territory to set up Howell’s screen pass to running back Brian Robinson for a 24-yard touchdown that pushed Washington to a 24-10 lead.
“Just playing good football,” Fuller said. “We’ve been talking all week about keeping our eyes on the little details.”
Benjamin St-Juste came up with the second pick in the end zone on a badly underthrown ball by Ridder with the Falcons facing third-and-goal from the 7. Falcons coach Arthur Smith reacted to the horrible throw by clutching his head with both hands.
Davis finished off Atlanta in the final minute, intercepting Ridder on a quick slant intended for speedy running back Bijan Robinson after the Falcons drove into Commanders territory needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to force overtime.
“It was just one of those situations where they were trying to isolate me with 7 (Robinson). He’s a dangerous guy, real shifty,” Davis said. “I was just trying to anticipate what I knew was coming.”
Howell worked well with his backs, also connecting with Antonio Gibson on a 1-yard score that was set up by Crowder’s long return. It was the first time since 2006 that multiple Washington running backs had TD catches in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Commanders were grateful to Crowder for providing some much-needed momentum.
“That was the spark we needed,” coach Ron Rivera said.
Curtis Samuel hauled in Washington’s other TD on a 7-yard pass.
Ridder, coming off a career day in a 21-19 win over Houston, threw for 307 yards and a pair of scores.
But it was the second time in three weeks that he’s had three turnovers in a game, which is sure to rekindle questions about his long-term future as Atlanta’s quarterback.
“Obviously, that’s tough right there to go out there and put up that showing,” Ridder said. “We had plenty of opportunities to go down and put points on the board.”
In addition to the picks, Ridder twice missed open receivers for potentially big gains, including an overthrow of newcomer Van Jefferson that likely would’ve been a touchdown. Ridder also was called for intentional grounding.
The Falcons cut into Washington’s two-touchdown lead on Ridder’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith with 12:38 remaining. Curiously, Smith decided to go for a two-point conversion.
Atlanta actually had two cracks at the two points. The first was a pass in the corner that resulted in a pass interference penalty, moving the ball to the 1. The Falcons tried to power it in from there, but short-yardage back Tyler Allgeier was stuffed by Jonathan Allen and Khaleke Hudson.
“Those are the consequences you live with,” Smith said. “If we get it, it’s a six-point game.”
The Falcons also had trouble getting the play calls from Smith to Ridder in a timely manner. That was especially evident when Atlanta spiked the ball to stop the clock on its next-to-last offensive play, then had to call its final timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.
“Some of our operations weren’t very clean,” Smith conceded. “That’s on all of us. We have to get better.”
Calais Campbell reached a major milestone with his 100th career sack, pulling down Howell by the left ankle late in the first half.
Campbell hopped off the turf to celebrate with the Dirty Bird dance. The crowd at Mercedes-Benz gave him a standing ovation and teammates crowded around the 37-year-old defensive end to give him a hug.
Campbell became the sixth active player and 41st player overall to reach 100 sacks. Bruce Smith is the career leader with 200.
“It’s cool to be a member of that elite club,” Campbell said.
Washington DT Daron Payne went down on a strange play in the fourth quarter.
After lining up in his stance, Payne suddenly fell over to draw a flag for offsides. Turns out, he had dislocated his finger, and it popped out when he put his hand on the turf.
Commanders: Stay on the road next Sunday for an NFC East game against the New York Giants.
Falcons: Travel to Tampa Bay to meet the Buccaneers in an NFC South contest next Sunday.
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