Image Courtesy of NBC Sports Washington
By Jonathan Norman
The Washington Commanders missed a prime opportunity on Sunday to improve their standings in the competitive NFC East and their chances of clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2020. The Commanders played their division rival New York Giants in East Rutherford, New Jersey and tied them with a score of 20 to 20. Washington’s record is now 7-5-1 on the season, which puts them in last place in the loaded NFC East. The team would also not make the playoffs if the season ended today.
A win would have greatly helped the Commanders’ chances to make the playoffs this year. The team would have been 8-5, overtaken the Giants for third place in the division, and be in the hunt for the playoffs. As it stands now, all the other NFC East teams, Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys would make the playoffs. Washington is not eliminated from playoff contention, but they will need to play better than this past Sunday.
Against the Giants, Washington jumped out to an early 10-point lead in the first quarter. Commanders’ quarterback Taylor Heinicke had a sensational 17-yard pass to receiver Terry McLaurin for a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Giants were able to rally back in the second half to tie the score with 13 all. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones spoke on the resilience of the team to not give up after the early deficit.
“We dug a hole for ourselves to start the game going down 10, so that was tough,” Jones said after the game. “I thought we finished the first half strong, clawing back and tying it up.”
The Giants would go on to take the lead in the third quarter of the contest with a six-yard touchdown grab from wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins. Luckily, Heinicke and the Commanders were able to put together a sensational drive with only three minutes left in the game. An eight play and 90-yard drive for the Commanders, ended in Heinicke throwing a 28 yard touchdown pass to receiver Josh Doctson and both teams being tied at 20.
In overtime is where both teams saw major struggles. After losing the coin toss, Washington had two offensive drives in overtime, and both ended in punts. The Giants had three offensive drives in overtime, the first two ended in punts and the final one ended in a missed 58-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
Taylor Heinicke did not play well in overtime. He missed on a few crucial throws and only completed one pass for one yard in overtime. After the game, Heinicke spoke to how the tie against the Giants felt for him and his drive to be better.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Taylor Heinicke said. “It pretty much feels like a loss, but obviously, in the bigger picture, it doesn’t count as one. We’ll move on from this. We’ve got a bye week, and then we’ve got them again, so we’ve got to get ready for them again.”
Giants fans were also not happy after the game, especially with the somewhat controversial decision of their first-year head coach Brian Doball. When the Giants were facing a fourth and three with just 1:42 left in overtime, Doball decided to punt the ball rather than go for it. With the Giants being at Washington’s 45-yard line and only needing a few more yards to be in field goal range to win the game, many thought the Giants would go for it. Doball defended his decision after the game.
“I thought our defense had a chance to keep them down there,” Daboll explained. “Maybe we’ll get the ball back with, call it, 35 seconds — somewhere around there, somewhere around midfield, and give ourselves another chance. If you don’t get it, then they kick a field goal, and they were going with the wind. So, that’s a decision that I made.”
Doball was right, as the Giants did get the ball back with 28 seconds left in the game, but were not able to score and ended the game in a tie.
The Giants remain in the playoff hunt, while the Commanders are now on the outside looking in. It will still be a tight race down the stench for those final two NFC playoff spots, as the Giants, Commanders, and Seahawks all currently have seven wins.
Next week the Commanders have their bye week, but after that they will once again face the New York Giants. This time the Commanders will get their division rivals at their home stadium. Commanders head coach Ron Rivera after the game talked about the issues the team faced in this week 13 contest and how they will be working in the future.
“We missed the opportunities; I mean it happens,” Ron Rivera said. “We overthrow a couple of guys, we miss a couple of blocks and stuff like that. Those are things that we’ve got to get shored up, we’ve got to get them fixed and get them ready to go.”
The Washington Commanders will play the New York Giants, Sunday December 18th, on Sunday Night Football.