Commanders Corner: Windy City win proves costly for Washington

Let me lead off the discussion of the Washington Commanders’ 12-7 victory over Chicago by stating the obvious: “Thursday Night Football” in its current state sucks. On every level. As long as they have teams that play the previous Sunday square off on the following Thursday.

From a player safety standpoint (in today’s NFL, it takes until Wednesday for players to recover from a Sunday game) to team preparation (a walk-through and a practice can hardly get a team in gear for an NFL game in 2022), four days of turnaround time are not long enough.

Instead of a prime-time product for a prime-time audience, the consumers get a lesser product that is only highlighted when less-talented teams take the field.

The league needs to give teams that play Thursday the previous weekend off, and until they do we’re going to be subjected to reheated sushi on a weekly basis.

As for the Commanders’ “victory,” they were fortunate to face a team that misfired and squandered multiple golden opportunities. But the win means they’re 2-4 … which feels much more than one game better than 1-5.

Wentz’s Woes: Quarterback Carson Wentz completed 12 of 22 passes for a season-low 99 yards while getting sacked three times. He also broke the ring finger on his throwing hand and is out four to six weeks after having surgery. So it’s Taylor Heinicke time once again, and Washington will start multiple quarterbacks for the fifth straight season.

Running into a Great Story: Brian Robinson Jr. rushed for 60 yards and his first NFL touchdown on the same night of his first career start. Quite a comeback for somebody who was shot in the leg less than two months ago. Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic added 55 yards on seven carries, but this is Robinson’s ground game until further notice.

Pass Catch Fever: Terry McLaurin caught three passes for 41 yards while Curtis Samuel was held to a season-low two catches for six yards (he’s still on pace for 96 receptions). Jahan Dotson was unavailable with a bad hamstring. Would he have been ready to go if the game was played on Sunday?

Third and Awful: The offense converted just two of 11 chances, calling nine pass plays to two runs. Carson Wentz completed two of six passes for one conversion (although one incompletion was rescued by a defensive pass interference call) while getting sacked three times. His top option was McLaurin, who had two targets with one catch that resulted in the conversion. Washington ran twice with Robinson, gaining three yards on a third and one while Gibson gained three yards on a third and seven (setting up a late field-goal attempt). Distance breakdown: one of two on short-yardage, one of six on four to six yards needed and zero of three on long-yardage.

Bending but not Breaking: Washington’s defense held the Bears to just one touchdown, stopping Chicago on eight of 13 third downs. Cole Holcomb led the way with 12 tackles while the pass rush yielded five sacks (two coming on third down) and Jonathan Allen recorded an interception in the red zone. They also had a last-minute goal-line stand from the 5-yard line that preserved victory. With a change in quarterbacks, the D is going to have to be the engine that drives this train for the next month.

Special Situations: Tress Way is too good for this team. The punter averaged 51.2 yards per kick with zero touchbacks (twice pinning the Bears inside their own 20). His 54-yard punt was muffed and recovered by Washington to set up the go-ahead touchdown. Two of his other punts were downed and one was a fair catch, while punt coverage allowed a 5- and 10-yard return. Joey Slye made field goals of 28 and 38 yards while missing a 48-yarder. He also had two touchbacks with one kickoff returned 22 yards. Dax Milne had two 14-yard, and one 7-yard, punt returns with a fair catch. Meanwhile, Gibson had a 27-yard kickoff return.

Flying Flags: Washington was whistled eight times with seven penalties accepted for 36 yards. Three were on offense (illegal formation, a false start and a hold) while two were on defense (hold, too many men and illegal use of the hands) and two were on special teams (hold and a delay of game). The top culprit this time? Well, everybody and nobody: the delay of game and both too many men on the field calls were charged to “unnamed” players. The top infraction through six weeks? False starts (nine). The most costly penalty this week? A false start on Cam Sims turned a third and goal from the five into a third and goal at the 10. One play later, Washington had to settle for a field goal in what would wind up being a one-score game.

Digesting the Division: Philadelphia (6-0) owns the No. 1 seed in the NFC while the surprising New York Giants (5-1) are currently fifth in the conference. Dallas (4-2) is in sixth place while Washington (2-4) is 12th in the NFC, losing the tiebreaker to New Orleans (conference record) while prevailing over Arizona (strength of victory) and Chicago (head-to-head). Much better than the previous couple of weeks when they were sixteenth.

East remains the Beast: The NFC East is 17-7 through six weeks and three games ahead of the AFC East (15-9). The softest quartet remains the NFC South (9-15). Meanwhile, the NFC owns an 11-10 edge over the AFC in the inter-conference contest.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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