The official snap counts are in for the Washington Commanders’ agonizing loss at home to former Skins Kirk Cousins and Kevin O’Connell. Let’s have a look at some game statistics and playing time by playing group and what it all means.
This was the 23rd matchup between Washington and Minnesota dating back to 1968. Sunday’s loss brings Washington’s record in the series to 10W – 13L. Washington last beat the Vikings in 2016 and is 0-2 against them since Kirk Cousins switched teams.
The NFC East is currently 20-5 against teams outside the division. With this loss to an NFC North opponent, the Commanders now account for 3 of the 5 extra-division losses.
Curtis Samuel led Washington receivers with 3 receptions on 4 targets for 65 yards, including one miraculous 49 yard TD reception assisted by a pick move on the safety by the referee.
Six different receivers caught passes for positive yardage, and Brian Robinson had two receptions for -6 yards.
Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen were a disruptive presence upfront, combining for 6 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 6 QB hits. Benjamin St-Juste added another sack from the cornerback position, and Kirk Cousins absorbed 11 QB hits in total on the afternoon.
Kam Curl was Washington’s leading tackler with 8 solo tackles and 3 assists, including 2 tackles for loss.
The defense defended 7 passes, with each position group getting in on the action. Benjamin St-Juste led the secondary with 2 PD. Danny Johnson’s interception in the endzone to close out the first half was Washington’s only takeaway of the game, and only the 6th takeaway by the Commanders’ defense this season.
Tress Way continued to make the case for Commanders’ MVP, averaging 48 yards on 5 punts, downing three inside the 20 and two inside the 10. Tress leads the NFL with 2,401 punting yards. He also leads the league in punting (50) which tells you everything you need to know about the Commanders’ offense.
Dax Milne had 5 punt returns for 41 yards and leads the NFL in punt returns with 37 on the season. His 8 yards/return average ranks 13th in the NFL, which is far better than I would have expected.
Antonio Gibson was Washington’s leading ball carrier with 115 total yards coming on 2 kick returns for 68 yards, 11 rushes for 36 yards and 2 receptions for 11 yards.
Gibson’s 45 yard kick return was the 10th longest in 2022, and Washington’s longest kick return since DeAndre Carter’s 101 yard return for a TD in Washington’s 34-30 win over Atlanta in Week 4 of the 2021 season.
SNAP COUNTS - OFFENSE
Taylor Heinicke reminded the Washington faithful that he is the backup with a mistake-filled outing against Minnesota. Heinicke completed a meager 15/28 passes for 149 yards with 2 TD to 1 INT. He also took 3 sacks, which is his highest total this season. He rushed 4 times for 17 yards. His 30.1 QBR ranks 20th among NFL QBs in Week 9, also his worst mark in three games this season. He has remained consistent at 1 INT per game through three games. His 42.9 QBR on the season would rank 25th in the league, if he had played enough games to qualify for ESPN’s leaders board, and puts him ahead of injured starter, Carson Wentz, at 29th (33.0 QBR).
Designated starter, Brian Robinson played fewer offensive snaps, but received more carries (13) and ran for more yards (44) than flex weapon Antonio Gibson (11 carries, 36 yards). Neither running back had a particularly impressive game, rushing for 3.4 (Robinson) and 3.3 (Gibson) yards per carry. Gibson chipped in another 11 yards on 2 receptions, while Robinson lost 6 yards on two receptions. The Commanders will need to find a way to run more often and more effectively if they hope to overcome sub-starting level quarterback play.
Fullback Alex Armah was, once again, underutilized by Scott Turner, seeing the field for only a single offensive snap and not receiving any touches for the third straight week. His offensive snap count in Week 9 was down 300% from his high mark of 3, set in the Week 7 win over Green Bay.
To give you an idea what Washington is missing out on by neglecting the fullback, teams that have given fullbacks three or more rushing attempts in 2022 are currently 26-15. It is a little known fact that fullback is primarily a receiving position. Teams that have thrown five or more passes to fullbacks in 2022 are currently 44-30. Three of those nine FB-savvy teams are currently leading their divisions (BUF, BAL, MIN). No fullback has fumbled the ball in 2022.
Terry McLaurin lead the wide receivers in snap counts, but Curtis Samuel lead in receiving yardage (3 rec, 65 yds) thanks to a 49 yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Taylor Heinicke, with an assist from the ref. McLaurin was the most targeted receiver (9 tgts) and second in yardage with five receptions for 56 yards. Dax Milne had one reception for a six yard touchdown and Cam Sims had a single 12 yard reception. Dyami Brown was targeted once but came up empty handed.
It was a quiet day for the tight ends. John Bates had a single reception for five yards on two targets. Logan Thomas was targeted three times for no receptions. Armani Rogers did not get any targets, but had one scintillating rush for 24 yards. He should probably get the ball more.
Washington’s five starting OL each took 100% of offensive snaps. None of the OL had a penalty this game.
DEFENSE – SNAP COUNTS
Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen continue to demonstrate why they are the nucleus of Washington’s defense. Against the Vikings, they combined for 6 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 6 QB hits. James Smith-Williams chipped in with three tackles, one tackle for loss and one QB hit. Montez Sweat had a single tackle, a pass batted down, and three QB hits. Casey Toohill and Efe Obada had three and one tackles, respectively.
Jamin Davis had four solo tackles and one assist, one tackle for loss and a pass defended. Jon Bostic had two solo tackles and three assists. The other two active linebackers only played on special teams.
Benjamin St-Juste is emerging as the Commanders’ best cornerback. Against Minnesota he had three solo tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, two passes defended and a QB hit. Kendall Fuller had three solo tackles and an assist, a tackle for loss and a pass defended. Danny Johnson had the Commanders’ lone interception, which was the team’s third interception this season. He also recorded two solo tackles and two assists and a pass defended.
Kamren Curl was the team’s leading tackler with eight solo tackles and three assists, including two tackles for loss. Bobby McCain was second on the team with six solo tackles and two assists and one tackle for loss. He also had a pass defended. Darrick Forrest was relatively quiet with one solo tackle and two assists.
Tress Way and Antonio Gibson were the Commanders’ stars on special teams. Way booted five punts for 240 yards, landing two inside the 20 and two inside the 10. One of his punts landed at the one yard line, but was mishandled by Percy Butler and went for a touchback. Gibson returned two kicks for 68 yards with a long of 45. Joey Slye was perfect, kicking one 44 yard field goal on one attempt and converting two of two extra points. Camaron Cheeseman did nothing to draw attention to the long snapper position, which is about the best that anyone can expect from a long snapper. Dax Milne had five punt returns for 41 yards and a long of 15.