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Commanders overcome bad start to upset visiting Packers and keep the season afloat with 23-21 win

Not always pretty, but gritty, hard-nosed; a win is a win

Green Bay Packers v Washington Commanders Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The first score of the game was set up by the Packers winning the field position game. After having the first drive of the game bog down after just one 1st down, the Packers punted the ball to the Commanders 2 yard line. Washington wasn’t able to do much, getting only 3 yards followed by a pair of incompletions. Tress Way got off a good punt, and Christian Holmes made a textbook tackle, but a holding call against Washington forced a re-punt. On the second punt, the Packers got a good return and set up for business at the Washington 42. They got 3 first downs on the way to their first TD of the game, which came on a shovel pass to Aaron Jones on 3rd & goal.

Antonio Gibson handled the kick return and got the offense set up near the 30 yard line.

On 3rd down, Taylor Heinicke missed McLaurin on an in-route, throwing it a couple yards behind Terry and hitting the DB in the hands. The young QB looked really rusty early, throwing the ball with very little accuracy.

Special teams bailed him out. On the punt that followed, Washington benefited from a muffed punt for the second week in a row. The recovery by the special teams gave Taylor Heinicke and the offense the ball at the Packers 17-yard line.

An exotic play with TE Armani Rogers lining up at QB and handing the ball off to Curtis Samuel resulted in a 1st & Goal from the 5. Two runs got the ball to the 3 yard line, and on 3rd down, Heinicke throw the ball a yard over TE Cole Turner’s outstretched arms in the end zone.

Joey Slye came on to kick a chip shot field goal to make the score 7-3.

The Packers took over on the 25 yard line, but a holding call on the initial play made it 1st & 20 from the 15 yard line. They couldn’t get a new set of downs and punted the ball. Washington’s offense got good starting field position at their own 36 yard line. They ran one play before the end of the 1st quarter.

The second quarter started with Heinicke’s first completion of the game – 14 yards to Curtis Samuel for a 1st down.

Two plays later, the Commanders faced a 3rd & 5 at the Packers’ 40-yard line. He tried to hit JD McKissic at the line to gain. The RB was tightly covered, and the Packers DB pulled the ball out of his hands and ran it all the way back for a pick 6 to open up an 11-point lead, 14-3.

Heinicke’s accuracy and decision-making were simply awful to this point in the game. He had only thrown, really, one good pass – the first down to Curtis Samuel. Everything else looked bad. He was 1-7 for 14 yards.

On the ensuing kickoff, Gibson had a good return, but a holding call put them back to the 17-yard line. They picked up a 1st on a run by Brian Robinson, but on the next play, it was another bad pass By TH, throwing to Samuel. The ball should have been picked off, but the defender dropped it.

At this point, Scott Turner decided he needed to settle things down, and went back to the run game. Gibson picked up 20 yards by bouncing the ball to the outside, getting the ball to midfield. Brian Robinson got a nice gain on a pass behind the line of scrimmage, bringing up 3rd & 1 at the Packers 41. A sidearm pass to McLaurin for a 1st down was the first time that Taylor Heinicke looked like the 2021 version of himself.

On 1st down at the 35-yard line, Brian Robinson looked like the runner we saw in preseason, following a good block by Curtis Samuel to rumble for 24 yards to set up 1st down at the Packers 11-yard line with 8:41 left in the half. Washington’s offense was showing signs of rhythm for the first time all day. Robinson had lost control of the ball at one point during the tackle, and Matt LeFleur threw his 2nd challenge flag of the day. The Packers lost the challenge – their second – and had no more challenges left.

Washington had 1st & 10 from the 11-yard line with some apparent momentum. On 3rd & 8 from the 9 yard line, Heinicke threw a beautiful pass to hit Antonio Gibson in the middle of the end zone to cap a 12-play, 83-yard drive with 7 points to make it 14-10.

On Washington’s next offensive possession, facing a 3rd & 6 inside the Packers 40 yard line, Heinicke tucked the ball and scrambled. He got hit from behind, fumbled, and the Packers scooped up the ball and returned it for an apparent TD, but there was a penalty flag against the Packers defense for illegal contact that negated the Packers big play and gave Washington a first down inside the Packers 35. Two plays later, Washington faced 3rd & 5 at the Green Bay 29-yard line.

Rasul Douglas broke up the pas attempt to Curtis Samuel, bringing Joey Slye on for a 47-yard attempt that banged off the right upright. All the momentum that Washington had built suddenly drained out of the building, with Green Bay taking over at the 37-yard line with 2:48 left in the half. When the 2-minute warning was called, the score was still 14-10, and the Packers were at -9 total yards in the 2nd quarter, but with a chance to put together an offensive drive to extend their lead going into halftime.

Wildgoose was flagged for interference to give the Pack a 1st down at the 41; on the next play, the Packers were flagged for holding. Two plays later, the Packers faced 3rd & 11 at the 40 yard line. An incomplete pass on great coverage by St-Juste forced the punt.

Washington took over on the 31-yard line with 1:23 left in the half to try to make inroads on the scoreboard.

Unsurprisingly, Scott Turner called a run for McKissic to open the drive. On 2nd down, it looked like Cole Turner had made a great catch at midfield, but couldn’t control the ball as he went to the ground, bringing up 3rd & 6 with just over a minute on the clock. Samuel was tackled for a 5 yard loss to bring up 4th down and a punt.

A booming punt by Tress Way was touched (or nearly touched) by 3 coverage players to keep it out of the end zone, ending up as a 67-yard punt, putting the Packers offense on the field at their own 1-yard line with 00:45 on the clock. The Packers ran one play and went to the locker room with a 4 point lead.

Halftime Stats:


Washington got the ball to start the second half with the ball on their own 25 yard line. After a couple of first-downs, on 1st & 10 from the Packers 37 yard line, Heinicke hit Terry McLaurin in stride 40 yards downfield in the end zone for a TD to take the lead for the first time in the game at 17-10. It was one of the best big-play throws of Taylor Heinicke’s career.

Green Bay was unable to get across midfield. They punted, and Washington started their 7th offensive drive of the game at their own 14-yard line with just under 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

Washington’s drive went 16 plays and 72 yards with 1st down conversions by TE Armani Rodgers, WR Curtis Samuel, and RBs Brian Robinson & Antonio Gibson, but it eventually bogged down at the GB 13 yard line. Joey Slye came on and kicked at 30-yard field goal to put the Commanders up by 6 points, 20-14 with just 8 seconds left in the quarter.

The Packers completed a pass for 17 yards to close out the 3rd quarter, and had the ball 1st & 10 at their own 42 as the 4th quarter started.

Green Bay got across midfield, but faced a 4th & 1 at the Washington 38 yard line. Aaron Rodgers threw a pass that had a chance, but Kendall Fuller hit the receiver and forced an incomplete pass to put the Packers defense back on the field.

Taylor Heinicke and the Commanders offense took over at their own 37 yard line with less than 12 minutes left in the game and a chance to take a commanding lead.

The start of the drive was not promising, with Taylor Heinicke taking a 3-yard sack. The drive was kept alive by a 26-yard catch and run by Curtis Samuel, and aided by a personal foul against the Packers at the end of the play that added 15 yards. Cam Sims converted another first down on the drive that ultimately stalled at the Green Bay 3 yard line when Heinicke, under pressure, wisely threw the ball out of the end zone on 3rd down.

Joey Slye came on to kick another chip shot field goal to take a 9 point lead at 23-14.

On Green Bay’s ensuing possession, on 3 different occasions, it looked like the Commanders defense had stopped the Packers on 3rd down, but all 3 times a penalty flag was thrown against the defense, resulting in a 1st down each time. After the third of these, on the next play, from the 31 yard line, Aaron Rodgers hit Jones in the end zone for the first Packers score in the 2nd half to draw within 2 points with 03:26 remaining in the game, 23-21.

Washington took over at their own 25 after a touchback on the kickoff.

Taking over with well over 3 minutes on the clock and with 3 timeouts in hand for Green Bay, the Washington offense had to make several first downs to be able to put the game on ice. The first big play of the drive was a 14 yard reception by Terry McLaurin on the left sideline where he managed to stay in bounds to keep the clock running.

Two plays later, Washington faced a critical play on 3rd & 9 with 2:13 remaining. Heinicke was under huge pressure and threw up a wobbling lollipop towards the right sideline. Terry McLaurin outhustled Jaire Alexander to the ball, catching it for 12 yards and a 1st down. This time, however, McLaurin was forced out of bounds, stopping the clock at 2:06.

The Commanders weren’t able to convert the first down, and punted the ball away with 00:23 on the clock.

Aaron Rodgers tood the field at his own 19-yard line with 23 seconds and no time outs. On first down, it looked like Washington had an interception, but the ball was caught by the Packers receiver who gave himself up at the Packers 46.

With time for only one final play, Rodgers threw to the middle of the field, and the Packers lateraled the ball at least a half dozen times, but were unable to score the TD required, and the game ended when an Aaron Rodgers’ cross-field throw skittered out of bounds.

The Commanders improved to 3-4 while the Packers fell to 3-4. With the Cowboys beating the Lions to go to 5-2, the Giants getting the win against the Jaguars to reach 6-1, with the Eagles on a bye, the NFC East went 3-0 today to continue its dominance of the NFL win totals, while Washington stays alive for an unlikely-but-possible wildcard playoff spot in the NFC.

Taylor Heinicke started out looking terrible, but improved as the game went on, and did enough to get the upset against the favored Packers, adding to his legend in DC as a limited but gritty player who never gives up.

It should be another interesting week as Washington fans who continue to have hopes for the 2022 season do battle with those who will see this victory as simply a loss of 2023 draft position. The Commanders next travel to Indianapolis to take on a struggling 3-3-1 Colts team that lost to the Tennessee Titans today.

Buckle your seatbelts.

Some final statistics

First downs - Was 22; GB 16

Total Plays - Was 72; GB 47

Total yards - Was 364; GB 232

Rushing yards - Was 166; GB 38

3rd down efficiency: Was 7-15; GB 0-6 (0-1 on 4th down)

Penalties against - Was 7-54 yards; GB 9-69 yards

Time of Possession: Was 37:07; GB 22:53

Individual Stats

Heinicke 20-33, 201 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Robinson 20 carries, 73 yards

Gibson 10 carries, 59 yards

Samuel 5 carries, 26 yards

McLaurin 8 targets, 5 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD

Samuel 8 targets, 5 catches, 53 yards

Armani Rodgers 3 targets, 3 catches, 28 yards

Percy Butler - Fumble recovery

Cole Holcomb 9 tackles

Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers 23-35, 194 yards, 2 TD

A Jones 8 carries, 23 yards

AJ Dillon 4 carries, 15 yards

A Jone 9 catches, 53 yards, 2 TDs

A Lazard 6 catches, 55 yards

R Tonyan 3 catches, 32 yards