Whew! Or sigh! Or yikes! Whatever you exclaimed after Matt Ryan’s hailmary attempt fell to the ground was probably correct. In a game that had more twists and turns than the beltway under construction, Washington ultimately prevailed and evened their record to 2-2. Though some of the same mistakes that were happening in the first three weeks popped up again, Washington had some great performances to over come them. So depending on if you are a glass half empty or half full person, the team is 2-2 through it’s first four games for the first time since 2018. Let’s take a final look back at yesterday’s game.
- Terry McLaurin- While there maybe a debate outside the Washington fanbase on if Scary Terry is a top ten receiver, there is definitely not one here, we know it. No matter the quarterback, the offense, the team’s record, McLaurin gets open every week. That is what you ask of your number 1 receiver and he does just that. Six receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns is what McLaurin finished with and led the offensive explosion that was needed to win. With Curtis Samuels back, McLaurin will be even harder to stop.
- Offensive Line- We all want to see improvement, and the unit that has done that the most over the first four weeks is the Offensive line. First week was bad across the board but since then the line has been playing very well. Chase Roullier and Ereck Flowers have been good all season and Samuel Cosmi gets better by the week. Charles Leno had a rough first week as well but he has settled in. Brandon Scherff had been too but unfortunately he was injured yesterday. Wes Schweitzer stepped right in and kept the ship moving. The running backs have gotten good blocking and Taylor Heinicke was well protected. The offense is putting up points and the line is a good reason for that.
- Deandre Carter- I had mentioned all training camp about the attention paid to special teams by Nate Kaczor and his staff. Sunday was culmination of that with Deandre Carter’s 101 yard kickoff return touchdown. Carter has elite speed and made this team because of his return ability. In week 1 you could sense he was close to breaking one and yesterday he did and he sure made it look easy. Part of why that was so easy was the blocking and technique used by the return team. John Bates pancaked the last player who could have stopped Carter and with the exception of the one guy Carter made miss, no other defender got in three yards of him. Excellent job all around.
- Third Down Defense- 10 of 16 (62.5%) is all you need to know. That is horrendous and is the biggest issue facing this defense and team at the moment. There are so many reasons why this happened yesterday. One time it would be a missed tackle, the next time a penalty, the next time a miscommunication, the next time bad defense called. Too often Matt Ryan was ahead of Jack Del Rio and his game plan and Ryan would put the Falcons in position to convert. Third down is the money down and the defense has to find a way to get off the field, 60% conversions on third downs lead to losses more often than not.
- Roughing the Passer?- I honestly think cameras and review have made officials less assertive and objective. Now I am a big believer in not putting the game in the officials hands but somethings warrant attention. On a fourth down play Chase Young got called for a roughing the passer that is beyond questionable. Now Young should have just hit Ryan in his ribs and wrapped him up but he went for the safer push to the chest. Young made contact with Ryan’s shoulder and Ryan proceeded to throw a ball up which was intercepted. There was no flag thrown initially but then after Ryan lobbied he got a flag. The explanation of forceable contact to the neck and head was even worse than the call. I believe that these calls should be automatically reviewed like targeting in college. Whatever is decided the league must remember, quarterbacks are football players too.
- Dustin Hopkins- Being a kicker in the NFL is hard. If a kicker misses a 55 yard kick that happens, it’s difficult. An extra point is a different story and Hopkins missed two yesterday. That simply cannot happen in the NFL. One miss every blue moon happens but you can’t miss two. Coach Rivera firmly said that Hopkins is “our kicker” but that will not appease the fans which have seen Hopkins unsteady performance for a long time. Kickers are not a dime a dozen but the team can at least bring in a kicker to challenge Hopkins. This team looks like it will be in a lot of close games, they need a clutch kicker.
- Running Game- Washington has a solid combination between Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic. Scott Turner needs to find a way to get both involved consistently. It seems like week 1 was all Gibson then week 2 McKissic became the feature in the second half. Weeks 3 and four have gone the same way, and this needs to change. Gibson should get around 20 touches and McKissic around 15. Two back sets would also be effective to get both of them on the field.
- Injuries- Outside of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington had been pretty much injury free over the first three weeks of the season. Yesterday the injury big finally caught up to the team. Logan Thomas was lost after the first offensive drive with an hamstring issue (week to week). Then Brandon Scherff was lost to a knee injury (MCL sprain 2-3 weeks). Then Cam Sims was injured after a special teams play. Antonio Gibson, who was already banged up, took a shot to the ribs and was shaken up. Jon Bostic tore a pectoral muscle and is presumed to be out for the season. Then on the final play of the game, Tory McTyer tore his ACL and is out for the season. The depth of the team will surely be tested heading forward.
- NFC East- The division leading Dallas Cowboys handed the Carolina Panthers their first loss in another solid performance from them. The New York Giants came from 11 points down to defeat the New Orleans Saints in overtime for their first win of the season. The Philadelphia Eagles tried to hang with the Kansas City Chiefs but were unable to. That leaves Dallas as the division leaders with Washington a game behind and the Giants and Eagles a game behind Washington.