Commanders Corner: Telling the tough truth against the Lions

You weren’t expecting a 17-0 season from the Washington Commanders now, were you? For the record, I did have this team going 6-8-3 … but this was one of my three projected ties entering the season.

Don’t I look foolish now! The Commanders’ 36-27 defeat at Detroit came on a day where they had more first downs (21-17) than the Lions, were perfect (3-3) in the red zone, performed better on third down (7-15 to 4-13) and had just a pair of penalties (none in the second half).

But the Burgundy and Gold still come back with an “L,” and now they get to prepare to face Philadelphia in a week three showdown where FedEx Field will have a Christmas feel (plenty of red and green in the stands).

Carson’s Contributions- the quarterback threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns while tossing an interception on the afternoon where his former team Indianapolis was shut out in Jacksonville. Wentz was sacked five times in the loss, one of which was the safety that gave the Lions a 5-0 first quarter lead.

Running in Place: At first glance the ground game gained 88 yards on 21 carries, but look at the first half where they were held to 17 yards in six carries. And a long gain of five. Antonio Gibson was held to 2 yards per carry (28 yards on 14 rushes) while the wide receivers (Terry McLaurin & Curtis Samuel) had almost a third of the team’s total (28 of the 88). But just like the receivers lent a hand on the ground, Gibson and J.D. McKissic combined for nine catches and 67 yards.

Pass Catch Fever: Let’s hold off giving these guys a nickname until they post for a full season. But bask in the best unit on this team: Curtis Samuel (healthy!) led the team with seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown while rookie Jahan Dotson added four grabs for 59 yards and a score and Terry McLaurin had a “ho-hum” game of four receptions for 75 yards. Easily the best trio since Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker formed the group Cream in 1966-68.

Hold the Line: Center Chase Roullier was injured on the second to last play of the game and his bad knee will likely land him on short term Injured Reserve. Not what a unit that’s already minus Wes Schweitzer needs. The line allowed five sacks and had issues in the first half creating holes for the running game. Get the duct tape and rubber bands.

Third and Middling: The offense converted 7-15 third downs while reaching the marker on 5-7 tries in the second half. Wentz completed 8-11 passes for five conversions while getting sacked once and scrambling once for a first down. Antonio Gibson’s run on third and two was held to one yard while J.D. McKissic gained four yards on a third and one. McKissic was also the top option, making four catches on five targets (posting three conversions). Yardage breakdown: 2-3 on third and short, 3-6 when needing between four and six yards, and 0-4 on third and long.

Defending the Defense: Heading into the Monday Night Football staggered doubleheader Washington ranks 28th in yards allowed and 29th in points given up. Sunday the Burgundy and Gold allowed touchdowns on two key second half drives to keep the game out of reach. Darrick Forrest and Cole Holcomb led the team with 10 tackles apiece. They held the Lions to 4-13 on third down with seven of those downs needing 7+ yards. And they still gave up 36 points. One reason was the inability to contain Amon-Ra St. Brown, who caught nine passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns while being their top target on third down (five passes thrown to with one run). Another reason was not being able to tackle on first contact, illustrated by DeAndre Swift’s catch and fall before he got up to run through a sea of defenders to score from 22 yards out.

Special Situations: Tress Way averaged 47.3 yards per punt with a long of 62. Joey Slye made one of two extra points and did not attempt a field goal and recorded three touchbacks, one kickoff fielded three yards into the end zone, and an onside kick recovered by Detroit. Dax Milne averaged 21.3 yards on six kickoff returns (long of 33) and 11 yards on three punt returns (long of 19). Punt coverage allowed an eight yard return to Kalif Raymond, who returned Tress Way’s kick after a safety for 52 yards. Justin Jackson had a 33-yard return.

Flying Flags: Only two penalties for 17 yards (Detroit had one accepted penalty for five yards) and there were no whistles in the second half. Both infractions this week were on offense: intentional grounding on Carson Wentz and a delay of game. Both flags resulted in the offense being even further behind the chains and punting shortly thereafter. The Wentz penalty was the more costly, pushing the Burgundy and Gold back inside their own five.

Digesting the Division: Break up the Eagles! Philadelphia (2-0) looked sharp in their Monday Night Football victory and with two conference wins takes that tiebreaker over the New York Giants (2-0). Washington (1-1) owns a better “strength of victory” than Dallas (1-1) so for the moment the Commanders aren’t in the cellar.

Easts are the Beasts: After two weeks the NFC and AFC Easts own 6-2 composite records, making them the only two divisions with winning marks. In last? The AFC South is off to a 1-5-2 start and winless outside their quartet.

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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