Courtesy of USA Today
By Luke Weidenkopf
A match between titans is what fans hoped for at FedEx field on Sunday, but what they got certainly did not live up to expectations. It was a slugfest of a game, with grueling back and forth play and neither team gaining an edge. The Minnesota Vikings entered the match with a key upgrade in their offensive lineup by trading for former Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockinson. In the end, the true deciding factor in the game was the play of the starting quarterbacks.
Commander’s Heinicke played an expected backup quarterback game. He had some great flashes, but missed simple check-downs or basic reads that continue to prevent him from ever becoming a starter in the league. He completed 15 of his 28 passes for 149 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Heinicke blamed himself for the team’s loss and took total responsibility saying, “No one is gonna be harder on me than myself.” His below average play was easily surpassed by former Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins completed 22 of his 40 pass attempts for 265 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
Cousin’s main weapon was all-pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who torched the Washington defense with seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. He walked onto the field and took charge. He was perfectly balanced by new addition Hockinson, who provided a perfect counter to Jefferson’s play with nine receptions for 70 yards. Hockinson was always open for Cousins to check it down if all other reads were exhausted.
Washington’s receivers were extremely disappointing except for Curtis Samuel (three receptions for 65 yards) and Terry McLaurin (five receptions for 56 yards). McLaurin has been severely disappointing this year, having games where he takes over and looks like the wide receiver who received a massive pay day in the off season, but in most other games he looks like a toddler running around on the playground chasing an imaginary friend. His routes make no sense and his effort is lacking. The quarterback play has been subpar for the Commanders this year, but there is no doubt that a majority of their offensive struggles stem from McLaurin’s terrible play.
The slow, methodical game was not helped by the fact that neither team’s running games made a huge difference. The Vikings, led by Dalvin Cook, ran for under 60 yards, a truly pathetic performance when they have a top seven running back in the NFL on their roster. Washington’s approach was different, relying on five different players to carry the load as they totaled 30 carries for 137 yards.
As slow as this game was, it was a game that old football fans dream of. Both defenses played excellent, allowing minimal yardage or highlight reel plays. Both sides slowed offensive attacks in the air and on the ground as 11 punts were kicked (in total).
The game was close till the end, but Cousins marched his team down the field in crunch time. With under two minutes remaining the Vikings kicked what they believed to be the go ahead field goal, but a costly penalty by the Commanders allowed the Vikings to chew up more of the clock and kick another game winning field goal with 13 seconds remaining.
The end was inevitable with the Commanders. They are in it to the bitter end, but something always ends up going wrong , tarnishing their entire plan. There are few select games where a fourth quarter has gone their way. Washington is one game below .500 with a losing record at home.
The next Commanders game is a Monday Night Football special against the undefeated Eagles. Their likelihood of winning is slim to none, but with Taylor “Clutch” Heinicke anything is possible.