The Washington Commanders lost for only the first time since the first week of November after they fell to the New York Giants, 20-12, at home in Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season. The Commanders had a lot of trouble protecting QB Taylor Heinicke and converting on third downs in this matchup. Right now, Washington carries a 7-6 record, which is good enough for last place in the NFC East. However, they are still in the thick of the playoff race at sixth place in the entire conference. Here we’ll discuss the four Commanders most to blame for their Week 15 loss vs. the Giants.
The Commanders only managed to convert one of their ten third-downs, which occurred in the fourth quarter. This led to them scoring a touchdown on just one of their three red zone trips. Two fumbles by Heinicke also contributed to Washington’s loss, as they resulted in a total of 10 points for the Giants.
It is worth noting that there appeared to be a blown call by the official on Washington’s final offensive play. On a fourth-and-6 from the New York 6-yard line, Heinicke threw a pass to wide receiver Curtis Samuel, who Darnay Holmes covered. Despite wrapping his arms around Samuel’s chest, the officials did not call defensive pass interference and Washington turned the ball over on downs.
The Commanders will play their next game on the road against the San Francisco 49ers next Saturday.
For now, let us look at the four Commanders most to blame for their Week 15 loss vs. the Giants.
Final @aminorewards | #HTTC pic.twitter.com/nmugpWuYHU
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) December 19, 2022
4. OC Scott Turner
Scott Turner did not have a good performance against the Giants. We all know he was already working with numerous challenges, such as a lack of stability at the quarterback position and an underperforming offensive line. Still, Turner made several poor decisions.
In the first half, he repeatedly called a run play for wide receiver Curtis Samuel that was easily stopped by Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, resulting in negative yardage. For the game, Turner called five rushing attempts for Samuel that only gained one yard. It was not Samuel’s fault, as he is a capable runner, but the Commanders kept running the same play and leaving Thibodeaux unblocked, allowing the Giants to anticipate it.
In the second half, on a third-and-3 situation, Turner called for a run play for Samuel between the tackles instead of using Brian Robinson Jr., who had higher average yards per attempt. It was just a poor night for Turner’s offense.
3. Commanders Defensive Line
Washington’s defense was able to limit Saquon Barkley to 87 rushing yards, but 41 of those yards came on three plays in the fourth quarter. The Giants ran the same play repeatedly and moved the ball from their own 14-yard line to Washington’s 45-yard line.
The Commanders’ defensive line was unable to make a play when it was needed, and the Giants ended up scoring a crucial field goal to go ahead by eight points. In these types of close games, Washington needs its defensive line to step up and make plays in critical moments. That did not happen here.
2. Commanders Offensive Line
The Commanders offensive line has been a problem all season, regardless of who has been playing at quarterback. Even Heinicke, who is known for his mobility in the pocket, is frequently hit by opposing pass-rush units. Experts have noted that the Commanders are in max-protect mode 70 percent of the time, which limits their playbook significantly.
This is partly the responsibility of head coach Ron Rivera. While the injury to Brandon Scherff was not his fault, Rivera should not have applied the franchise tag to him when he did not want to stay with the team. Instead, Rivera replaced Scherff with a former Panther who is no longer playing at a high level.
Of the other offensive linemen, only Trai Turner has performed well, while Saahdiq Charles has struggled to secure a starting spot in three seasons. Andrew Norwell was brought in to replace Ereck Flowers, but he is only a mediocre upgrade. Sam Cosmi has been unable to stay healthy at right tackle, and Chase Roullier has suffered season-ending injuries in consecutive years.
Rivera has a significant task ahead of him in addressing these issues in the offseason. In the coming season, they should prioritize finding multiple new starters for the offensive line.
1. QB Taylor Heinicke
Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke had a mixed performance in Sunday’sloss to the Giants. He completed 17-of-29 pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. However, he also lost two fumbles and rushed three times for 33 yards.
Despite the losing effort, Heinicke had some notable moments in the game, including a 61-yard pass to Jahan Dotson and a late fourth-quarter scramble that was stopped one yard short of the end zone by Kayvon Thibodeaux. However, Thibodeaux also stripped Heinicke of the ball for a touchdown at the end of the first half, which significantly impacted the outcome of the game.
The passing game was inconsistent, and Heinicke almost threw an interception on the final drive. The two fumbles were particularly costly, as they resulted in a 13-point swing in favor of the Giants. The first fumble, caused by a blindside hit from Thibodeaux, led to an easy touchdown for the Giants. The second fumble, which occurred when Dexter Lawrence hit Heinicke as he was scrambling, resulted in a field goal for the Giants and an eight-point lead. It is uncertain whether Heinicke will be able to replicate his big-yardage plays against the 49ers’ strong pass rush on Saturday.