Seven weeks after starting the season 1-4, the Commanders have now won six of their last seven games and are currently in position to claim the seventh seed in the NFC playoffs, if the season ended today. In the last three weeks, they have demonstrated that they are capable of beating the best team in the conference and not losing to two teams they were expected to beat. Here are some key statistics and the snap counts from the Commanders’ nail-biting victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
The victory over the Falcons brings the Commanders’ record to 7-5. The last time Washington was two wins above .500 was Week 11, 2018. The last time the Redskins won 6 games in a 7 game stretch was 2012. The 7-5 mark is Washington’s best record through 12 games since 2008.
A key matchup heading into this game was the Commanders’ rushing defense vs. the Falcons’ stable of running backs. The Falcons gashed Washington on the ground for 167 yards, the highest rushing total given up by the Commanders since the Bears game in Week 6.
The Falcons’ rushing success was survivable, in part, because the Commanders’ defense held the Falcons to 165 passing yards with 1 TD to 1 INT. The last minute Payne to Fuller INT was probably critical to keeping this one a win.
The Commanders’ defense allowed the 6th fewest passing yards in Week 12, holding the Falcons to 174 yards in the air. The Falcons had the 2nd best pass defense, holding the Commanders to 138 passing yards. The Commanders had the fewest passing yards of any winning team this week. The team has held opponents to under 200 passing yards 7 times this season and won 6 of those contests.
Throughout the last seven games, the Commanders have been increasingly leaning on the run. The Commanders’ 37 rushing attempts on Sunday was only the 4th highest total this season, but the 176 yard rushing total was the highest of the season. The rushing average of 4.8 yards per carry was their second highest this season, only falling short of the 5.3 yards per carry mark in the loss to Dallas. Washington has won all four games this season when they rushed for more than 150 yards.
The Commanders had a net 0 turnover differential against the Falcons, giving one away on a Taylor Heinicke interception at the end of the first half that was fortunately just out of Younghoe Koo’s field goal range, and taking one away thanks to the Payne/Fuller INT to prevent the Falcons from coming back at the end of the fourth quarter. The Commanders are 2-1 in games with net 0 turnover differential this season. They are 4-0 when the turnover differential is positive and 1-4 when it is negative.
The Washington Commanders have made a habit of taking games to the wire. Sunday’s victory over the Falcons was effectively sealed by that Daron Payne/Kendall Fuller interception on second and goal with 1:03 remaining to play, and Atlanta holding three time outs. Even then, the Commanders’ three and out on the ensuing possession would have given the Falcons the ball back with around 40 seconds remaining, if they hadn’t been saved by a running into the kicker penalty on fourth down. This was the 8th time this season that Washington was within one score of their opponents in the final two minutes and the 6th time that a game was decided by a score or defensive stop after the two minute warning.
CARSON WENTZ SNAP COUNT TRACKER
Washington fans have been keeping a close eye on the QBs’ snap counts, since the 2023 third round draft pick shipped to the Colts in the trade for Wentz converts to a second round pick if he plays more than 70% of offensive snaps this season.
As of Week 12, Wentz has played 422 of 834 total offensive snaps, which puts him at 50.6% of offensive snaps.
Season Projection: The earliest that Wentz could possibly return to action is game 14 after the bye, if something goes terribly wrong in the Week 13 matchup with the Giants. If that were to happen, and Wentz plays every offensive snap for the rest of the season, at the current rate of 69.5 offensive snaps per game, he will end up playing 700 of 1181 total offensive snaps, which equates to 59%. There are not enough games remaining for Wentz to reach 70%, unless the Commanders suddenly start playing 85+ offensive snaps a game. I am prepared to declare the Commanders’ 2023 2nd round pick safe. This will be the final instalment of the Carson Wentz Snap Count Tracker.
SNAP COUNTS - OFFENSE
Taylor Heinicke had his lowest passing total of the season against the Falcons with only 138 air yards. This was the 25th game this season won by a team passing for 138 or fewer yards. The Titans had the lowest passing total in a win with 40 yards in their 17-10 win over Houston. Heinicke returned to his usual pattern of 1 interception per game this season, after one week off against Houston. His two passing TDs tied his high marks for the season set against Green Bay and Minnesota.
While Heinicke’s total passing output was low, he did make 4 clutch completions of 17, 13, 14 and 3 yards on third downs to keep drives alive, leading to a TD and two field goals. His total QBR of 53.7 ranked 22nd in the league in Week 12. However, his salary adjusted QBVR® ranked 8th in the NFL.
Brian Robinson recorded more snaps than Antonio Gibson this week and had his highest rushing total of the season with 105 yards and a season high 5.83 yards per attempt. He also caught two passes for 20 yards, including a 14 yard TD reception on which he flattened a cornerback and ran through two defenders at the goal line.
Five different ball carriers rushed for positive yardage, including all three running backs and WRs Curtis Samuel (4/13) and Terry McLaurin (1/5). Gibson contributed 9 carries for 32 yards and caught 3 passes for 22 yards. Jonathan Williams looked impressive on limited carries, with 4 rushes for 22 yards.
Terry McLaurin was once again Taylor Heinicke’s favorite target, catching 4 passes on 6 targets for 48 yards, with a long of 26. Dyami Brown was the Commanders’ 5th leading receiver, catching his lone target for 17 yards. No other wide receiver caught a pass.
The Commanders ran two TE sets more often than not against the Falcons, with some three TE sets thrown in for good measure. John Bates was the team’s second leading receiver with 3 receptions on 4 targets for 24 yards and a TD. Logan Thomas was unusually quiet, catching one pass on 3 targets for 7 yards. Cole Turner failed to catch his one target, which was slightly overthrown by Heinicke. The tight ends also had an impact as blockers, highlighted by Bates’ lead block to clear the way on Brian Robinson’s longest run of the game for 21 yards.
Regular readers may have noticed that I have retired the Fullback snap count for the season for now. As difficult as that decision was to make, I take comfort in the fact that, between them, John Bates and Brian Robinson can handle the awesome responsibilities of that position.
Charles Leno, Tyler Larsen and Andrew Norwell remained constants on the OL, taking 100% of offensive snaps for the 7th week in a row. Sam Cosmi and Conrelius Lucas continue to share snaps at RT. Trai Turner left the game with an ankle injury and was replaced by Saahdiq Charles at RG.
The OL played well against the Falcons, only giving up a single tackle for loss and only allowing 2 QB pressures and no sacks. With his performance against the Falcons, LT Charles Leno has moved into 10th place in the league in ESPNs pass block rankings, with a pass block win rate of 93%. Cornelius remains the best run blocking OT in the league with a run block win rate of 85%.
DEFENSE – SNAP COUNTS
The defensive line did not have as big a day against the Falcons as their previous performance in Houston, but they still had a major impact on the game. Montez Sweat set up shop in the Falcons’ backfield with 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss and 2 QB hits. Daron Payne had the defensive play of the game, tipping a pass to Kendall Fuller for the interception on second and goal from the 4 yard line to prevent Atlanta from scoring a go-ahead touchdown with one minute left. He also contributed 6 combined tackles with 2 for losses.
Four linebackers took defensive snaps against the Falcons, up from two the previous week. Jamin Davis was the team’s second-leading tackler with 10 combined stops. He allowed 5 completions on 8 targets in coverage for 65 yards and an opposing passer rating of 88.0. Jon Bostic had a quiet afternoon with 2 combined tackles and no targets in coverage. David Mayo and Khaleke Hudson did nothing on defense.
The Commanders only started two CBs, although that’s a little misleading because Bobby McCain covered the slot for much of the game. Fuller had another shutdown performance, allowing 0 completions on 3 targets, with two passes defended, including the game sealing INT. He had an opposing passer rating of 0.0 in coverage.
Christian Holmes got his first start, in place of an injured Benjamin St-Juste. He didn’t have quite as good a performance as Fuller, allowing 2 receptions on 2 targets for 23 yards and an opposing passer rating of 114.6. Of course, he is a 7th round rookie making his first start and he didn’t give up any big plays.
The Commanders started three safeties, once again, with Bobby McCain spending a lot of time covering the slot. Darrick Forrest led the defense with 11 combined and 8 solo tackles. He allowed 2 completions for 38 yards on 4 targets in coverage and an opposing passer rating of 83.3. Kamren Curl had 8 combined tackles and allowed 2 receptions on 2 targets in coverage for 26 yards and an opposing passer rating of 118.7.
Antonio Gibson had 2 kick returns for 51 yards with a long of 31. After all of the anxiety about Alex Erickson’s fumbling, there were no punt returns and no muffed catches. Joey Slye was a perfect 2/2 on field goals, but missed one of two extra points. Tress Way had three punts for 127 yards with one downed at the 5, and one at the 16.
Which player would you like to see get more playing time?
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G Chris Paul
G Wes Schweitzer
CB Christian Holmes
TE Armani Rogers
S Percy Butler
LB Milo Eifler
QB Sam Howell
QB Carson Wentz
FB Alex Armah