Burgundy & Gold Grab Bag: Extended red zone blues

You could say Washington put together its best 60-minute effort of the season Sunday at Green Bay. They outgained the NFC North leaders by over 100 yards (430-304), had more first downs (25-19) and held the ball for 32:54.

But when it mattered most, they failed to finish drives: After scoring on their opening possession, they failed to get points on five possessions that ended inside the Green Bay 30-yard line. A blocked field goal attempt and an interception sandwiched three instances where they came up short on fourth down.

And so instead of getting a victory over a team with a winning record for the first time since Week 13 of last season, the Washington Football Team comes up short 24-10 and falls to 2-5.

Taylor Made: Quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 25 of 37 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown while tossing an interception (on one of those red zone trips that came up empty). He also used his wheels to lead the team with 95 rushing yards. But his two biggest runs came up short: the refs ruled he took a knee at the 1-yard line while stretching the ball over the goal line on a third and goal, and his fourth down QB sneak was pushed back. On the bright side, he blocked on a reverse and recovered a fumble by DeAndre Carter.

Running in Place: Antonio Gibson gained 51 yards on 14 carries but fumbled for the fourth time this season, while J.D. McKissic added 22 yards on four attempts. McKissic added four catches for 34 yards and is now second on the team with 25 receptions. They also each came up huge on third down as you’ll see below.

Pass Catch Fever: Terry McLaurin caught seven passes for 122 yards and scored the team’s only touchdown, putting the Ohio State product on pace to pass last year’s career highs of 87 catches and 1,118 yards. But he’s working opposite backups at wide receiver and tight end: Adam Humphries caught three passes for 36 yards while Ricky Seals-Jones made six grabs for 51 yards.

Third Down and Out: Washington converted 4 of 11 third downs, converting all four runs and coming up short on all seven pass plays. Heinicke went 0-4 (with a fifth incompletion resulting in a pass interference call that moved the chains) while getting sacked twice and scrambling short of the marker. He also converted on a planned run while Gibson converted both of his third-down runs and McKissic moved the chains on a third-down run of his own. The top target was McLaurin who had a pair of passes thrown his way in addition to the pass where he was interfered with. Yardage breakdown: 4-7 on short-yardage, 0-2 on four to six yards needed, 0-2 on third and long. So my bright spot here is having 64% of third downs needing fewer than four yards.

D earns a C: There are some things here to like, from Jonathan Allen’s two sacks to Landon Collins’ seven tackles. The 304 yards allowed was the lowest they’ve allowed all season and most importantly, the streak of allowing 30+ points ends at five. But once again, they allowed a touchdown on the opening drive while also surrendering a touchdown on the Packers’ final possession of the second quarter. Green Bay converted 5 of 6 third downs where they needed six yards or fewer and on their first drive converted a fourth and three into a 17-yard touchdown pass.

Special Situations: So the new kicker named Chris Blewitt had a field-goal attempt from 42 yards blocked. But the Pitt product delivered a 45-yarder and had both of his non-onside kickoffs reach the end zone for touchbacks. Washington did bloc Carter averaged 25 yards per kickoff return with a long of 28 and there were no punt returns. The Packers had no punt returns, because for the first time in his career, Tress Way did not have a punt.

Flying Flags: A season-low four penalties totaling 50 yards. Two were on special teams (holding and illegal touching of an onside kick), one was on offense (a hold on Wes Schweitzer) and the other was on defense (pass interference on Benjamin St. Juste). The two holds make that the most common infraction (nine) this season. None of the penalties were particularly costly, although St. Juste’s pass interference set up the Packers’ field goal when they were ahead 21-7.

Digesting the Division: Idle Dallas (5-1) stays atop the NFC East and has the fourth seed if the playoffs were to start today. Washington (2-5) is in 13th place of the conference, but owns the division tiebreakers and is in second place of the East while 2-5 Philadelphia owns the common games tiebreaker over the 2-5 New York Giants. Thank goodness winless Detroit is there to keep the Eagles and Giants out of last place in the NFC.

Comparing the Quartets: Seattle’s loss on Monday Night Football drops the NFC West into a tie with the surging AFC North at 17-10 (the NFC South is one half game back at 16-10). The AFC East (9-17) is the worst of the lot, while the NFC East (11-16) isn’t that much better. The NFC owns a 19-14 advantage against the AFC with 15 interconference games remaining.

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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