The difference in Commanders-Lions: Only one team showed up in the first quarter

Commanders-Lions difference: One team showed up in first quarter originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

After each Commanders game, Pete Hailey will outline the one factor that made the difference in the contest. Here’s what mattered in Washington’s matchup with Detroit…

The difference: As much fun as a large chunk of that second half was, the hole that the Commanders dug for themselves in the first quarter was simply too deep to get out of.

The stats: The Lions were up 12-0 after 15 minutes, sped out to a 162-to-20 advantage in yardage and forced Ron Rivera’s club into four three-and-outs. 

The explanation: Hm. Where to begin?

Almost every piece of Washington’s operation malfunctioned at some point in Sunday’s game, but the opening stretch was especially disastrous.

The pass protection for Carson Wentz was lacking, with the most glaring breakdown coming on a strip-sack of Wentz that ended with the ball rolling out of the end zone for a safety.

The offensive creativity that was rampant in Week 1 versus Jacksonville, meanwhile, was totally dulled early at Ford Field, as Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson combined for just one reception in the first quarter.

The defense — which really crumbled in the final 30 minutes — allowed a 49-yard catch-and-run by Amon-Ra St. Brown and a 50-yard rush by D’Andre Swift.

And even the special teams had a mishap, as that unit ceded a 52-yard return on the free kick following the safety.

All of those initial physical and mental errors set the tone for an overall sloppy afternoon from Rivera’s squad, and despite an offense that really brought it after half, the Commanders will head back home with a 1-1 record.

Was the victory over the Jaguars last Sunday an indication of an organization turning a corner, or simply a triumph over a longtime NFL doormat? That question, unfortunately, appears to have an answer that’s closer to the latter side than the former.

Sure, it was encouraging that Washington shrunk a 22-point deficit down to a one-score gap, but whatever positive feelings that stem from that attempted comeback should be overshadowed by the ire inspired by how the Commanders began.

No, the second quarter wasn’t all that much better — the numbers from that frame were lopsided in their own right — but the lackadaisical performance at the outset of the tilt is what was truly maddening. 

Essentially, one franchise treated the action immediately after kickoff like Lions. The other was a mere house cat. 

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