I wonder whether Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder tried to make his way over to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s suite after the 17-16 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium?
Washington’s third straight win propels the Burgundy & Gold to .500 and the fringe of the playoff race. The season that seemed lost just three weeks ago has now turned into one of playoff possibilities.
Taylor Time: Quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 23 of 31 for 279 yards and a touchdown while also tossing an interception and getting sacked twice. He also led the team in rushing with 29 yards on six carries, including one for the go-ahead touchdown on their final possession of the day. Most importantly, Heinicke bounced back from a second-half interception to lead a pair of scoring drives in the fourth quarter, delivering on a pair of fourth downs with clutch throws to Curtis Samuel that moved the chains.
Ground Chuck: The running back rotation was held to 45 yards on 17 attempts, with Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson each averaging under three yards per carry. Robinson answered the third down bell successfully twice, though, and Gibson provided a major threat as a receiver (seven catches for 58 yards and the game’s first touchdown).
Pass Catch Fever: Talk about a homecoming. Indianapolis native Terry McLaurin made six receptions for 113 yards, including a 33-yard catch that put the ball at the Colts’ 1-yard line on the Commanders’ final possession. He now has 553 yards receiving, which puts him on pace for a career high of 1,175 yards for the full season. Curtis Samuel added three catches for 50 yards, including a pair of fourth-down grabs in the fourth quarter. He’s now on pace for an 89-reception season. Just wait until Jahan Dotson’s hamstring is healthy again.
Third and Amazing: How could this team win after converting 2 of 12 on the money down? Both times the chains moved, it was thanks to the legs of Robinson, while J.D. McKissic gained two yards on a third and three. Heinicke converted four of six passes for zero conversions while getting sacked twice and scrambling short of the marker once. The top option: McKissic was targeted four times while Gibson and Terry McLaurin each caught a pair of passes. Yardage breakdown: two of five on short yardage, zero of two when needing four to six yards, and zero of five on long yardage. So while it’s nice that almost 50% of their third down plays needed fewer than four yards, it’s also disappointing that they came up empty on three of those attempts.
Defense does it again: For the third straight game, the Burgundy & Gold’s defense held its opponent in check. Not only did they force three field goals, but they turned over the Colts twice in the red zone (Daron Payne and Casey Toohill each recovering fumbles). Bobby McCain and Jonathan Allen tied for the team lead with eight tackles apiece.
Special Situations: Tress Way averaged 49 yards on six punts while landing four inside the Indy 20 with zero touchbacks. Joey Slye made his lone field goal attempt and converted both extra points while sending each of his four kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Antonio Gibson had kickoff returns of 16 and 25 yards while Dax Milne had punt returns of one, 10 and 12 yards. Punt coverage allowed returns of nine and 10 yards, while there were no kickoff returns.
Flying Flags: Only three penalties for 52 yards this time. And zero false starts! Two were on the defense (facemask and pass interference) and one was on special teams (double team block). Rachad Wildgoose’s pass interference gives him four flags on the year, which ties him for the team lead with fellow defensive back William Jackson III. It also moves the PI into a tie with false starts for the most common infraction. Wildgoose’s penalty was also the most costly: Instead of facing a third and two at the Washington 36, the Colts would take advantage of a first and goal from the 6 and score on the next play.
Digesting the Division: Philadelphia (7-0) is making things look easy after a 35-13 rout of Pittsburgh and owns the No. 1 seed in the NFC, while Dallas (6-2) moves into second place and the No. 5 spot, past the New York Giants (6-2) after their loss because the Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Washington (4-4) may still be in last place, but three weeks after being in last place of the conference are now in eighth.
Ranking the Quartets and Conferences: The NFC East (23-8) is just a little bit better than the AFC East (20-11) after eight weeks, while the NFC South (12-20) was a personal foul penalty away from having four 3-5 teams. The NFC owns a 17-15 advantage over the AFC after eight weeks.