Commanders Corner: Wearing a tie going into the bye

Washington’s steamroll toward the playoffs took a bit of a hit with its 20-20 tie against the New York Giants.

There’s nothing like thinking about a tie game for two weeks. Washington took a 10-0 lead before falling behind 20-13 in the fourth quarter, only to tie things up with 1:45 left in regulation.

The ten-minute OT decided nothing as the Giants missed a last-second field goal. And these two teams meet up again in week fifteen on the Sunday Night Football stage.

Can’t wait to watch the sequel!

Taylor Made — Heinicke threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns while getting sacked five times. One of the reasons behind the surge has been his ability to avoid the sack as he had been dropped only nine times over his previous six starts.

Ground Control — the trio of Brian Robinson, Antonio Gibson and Jonathan Williams carried the ball 31 times for 136 yards. Robinson ran 21 times for 96 yards, giving him 563 for the season (he’s on pace to finish with 813) over nine games. He also caught a pair of passes for 15 yards.

Run TMC — Terry McLaurin caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, giving him 945 for the season and within shouting distance of a third straight 1,000-yard campaign (hasn’t been done in Washington since Henry Ellard in 1994-96). Curtis Samuel had nine touches, with six receptions for 63 yards and three carries for 23 yards. And rookie Jahan Dotson caught a career-high five passes for 54 yards.

Third Down and Out — the offense moved the chains on 3-14 attempts with Heinicke completing 2-9 passes for one conversion. He was sacked twice (and lost a fumble on one of them). He threw to Curtis Samuel and Terry McLaurin three times apiece, with McLaurin’s one catch leading to a conversion while neither of Samuel’s receptions led to a first down. Brian Robinson moved the chains on both of his third down runs while Antonio Gibson gained five yards on a 3rd & 10. Distance breakdown: 2-3 on short yardage, 1-2 when four to six yards were needed and 0-9 on long yardage. Nine third and longs! That’s tough to overcome.

Case for the Defense — Kamren Curl paced the unit with 12 tackles while Jamin Davis added 10 stops. Daron Payne had a pair of sacks in his four tackles. The D held the Giants on 4-13 on third down.

Special Situations — Tress Way averaged 44.2 yards over six punts, landing four of them inside the Giants’ 20 with zero touchbacks. Joey Slye missed a 52-yard field goal but connected on 21 and 42-yarders while delivering four touchbacks (his returned kickoffs reached the goal line and the New York 8). Antonio Gibson had a 24-yard kickoff return while fumbling (and recovering) the other before gaining three yards. Alex Erickson had punt returns of 6, 6 and 14 yards plus a pair of fair catches. There were no punt returns and the Giants returned their kickoffs for 19 and 25 yards.

Flying Flags — seven penalties for 56 yards (with one infraction declined). Four were on the offense (two holds, a false start and an illegal block), one was on defense (holding) and two were on special teams (offsides and unnecessary roughness). Logan Thomas and Rachad Wildgoose were each whistled twice, but Wildgoose’s penalties were on the same play (and thus one had to be declined). Wildgoose’s six penalties are the most on the team, and after 13 weeks offensive/special teams holds lead the pack with 16 (false starts are a close second with 12). The biggest penalty? A hold on Cole Turner moved a 1st & 10 from the Giants’ 15 to a 1st & 20 at the 35. The possession ended with a missed field goal.

Digesting the Division — Philadelphia (11-1) owns first place and remains in the No. 1 seed of the NFC while Dallas (9-3) is in second place and holds the No. 5 seed. The Christmas Eve showdown between the two teams looms large. The New York Giants (7-4-1) are a half-game ahead of Seattle for the No. 7 seed and lead Washington by half a game for third in the division. Washington (7-5-1) trails the Seahawks by percentage points for the final playoff spot.

Comparing the Quartets — the NFC East (34-15-2) has the best composite record and a little more of a cushion with the AFC East (30-18) going 1-3 over the weekend. The AFC South (16-31-2) remains the doormat division. The NFC owns a 30-29 lead in the conference competition.

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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