Commanders Corner: Washington crashes against the Eagles

The Washington Commanders’ 24-8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles may have taken place in September, but FedEx Field stands had a holiday feel with all of the green and red (the team says burgundy but I think it’s more maroon).

But instead of gifts under the tree or stocking stuffers, the faithful received the proverbial lump of coal. Just like the Detroit game where it took forever to move the chains, Washington trailed by double-digits at halftime.

And it took even longer for the offense to get in gear this time. It’s still early and the NFL is a snapshot league, but eventually one can’t say that each successive bad effort is an isolated incident.

Carson’s Contributions: Quarterback Carson Wentz completed 25 of 43 passes for a season-low 211 yards. He didn’t throw an interception but fumbled twice (recovering one). The former Eagle was also sacked nine times. Yes, he moved the team well in the fourth quarter but once again, the Burgundy & Gold were unable to play with a lead.

Running in Place: It’s tough to get a ground game going when you fall behind 24-0 at the half. Antonio Gibson gained 38 yards on 12 carries and the running backs combined for 52 yards on 16 tries. J.D. McKissic remains the Swiss Army knife with three carries (for 8 yards) and six receptions (for 32 yards).

Pass Catch Fever: The power trio of Terry McLaurin (six catches for 102 yards), Curtis Samuel (7 catches for 48) and Jahan Dotson (two catches for 10) combined for 15 of the team’s 25 catches and 160 of Washington’s 211 receiving yards. But let the record show that McLaurin didn’t notch a reception until the team’s ninth possession. And he also wasn’t even targeted on a third down until the fourth quarter.

Third and Wanting: Washington moved the chains on 6 of 17 attempts but was 1 of 7 in the first half. In that mix were three sacks. Wentz completed 7 of 11 passes on the money down with four conversions while scrambling for a first down (plus those three sacks). McKissic gained six yards on a 3rd & 26 and Jonathan Williams ran for six yards on a 3rd & 1. The top option was Dotson with three targets and one catch, while the most productive performer was McKissic with two conversions on two targets.

Yardage breakdown: 3 for 4 on short-yardage, 2 for 4 on third and 4-6 yards needed, 1 for 9 on third and long. And not just long, but on eight of those attempts (almost half), the Commanders needed 10+ yards.

D earns a C: The defense on paper wasn’t awful, holding the Eagles to 5 for 15 on third down (they’d convert on 2 of 3 fourth downs) while keeping them off the scoreboard in the second half. But the damage was done before intermission in the form of multiple big plays, and the defense would allow passes of 38, 40, 44 and 45 yards before the day ended. Cole Holcomb led the way with nine tackles while Jamin Davis tallied six stop (including a pair of sacks).

Special Situations: This team does not deserve Tress Way. The punter averaged 52.5 yards per kick with a pair landing inside the Eagles’ 20. Punt coverage allowed 46 yards on six returns. Joey Slye sent his lone kickoff into the end zone for a touchback while his onside kick was unsuccessful. Dax Milne had a 29-yard kickoff return and there were no Eagles’ punts returned.

Flying Flags: Only four penalties, with just one in the second half (and none in the fourth quarter). Two were false starts on offensive tackle Charles Leno and two were defensive pass interference on Rachad Wildgoose. In the early season, defensive pass interference accounts for four of the twelve accepted penalties while Wildgoose and Leno are tied with Kendall Fuller for the most-penalized Commander through three weeks.

Digesting the Division: Philadelphia (3-0) isn’t just atop the NFC East but is also the only remaining unbeaten team in the conference (Miami is the only other 3-0 team). Dallas (2-1) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the New York Giants while Washington (1-2) is in the cellar.

East is the Beast: Don’t look now, but the NFC East owns the best composite record of the eight divisions after three weeks at 8-4. Meanwhile, an 0-4 week dropped the NFC West to a league-worst 4-8. It’s early.

On The Air: FOX’s No. 3 team of Adam Amin and Marc Schlereth handled Sunday’s broadcast, an upgrade over the network’s No. 5 and No. 6 teams to begin the season. And with a date with Dallas in Week Four the Commanders draw the No. 1 team of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen. Is that a good thing to have as many people see this team play?

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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