The competitive portion of the 2022 NFL season for the Washington Commanders ended in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
The Commanders host the Dallas Cowboys in a meaningless [for Washington] Week 18 game next Sunday. The Cowboys will play for a chance at the NFC East title and potential No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Commanders led 7-3 at halftime after a 21-play, 96-yard drive that lasted for over 11 minutes gave Washington its only touchdown of the day.
Surely the second half would be more of the same, right?
Not a chance. Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who only completed nine passes, but three were touchdowns, was throwing to wide-open dudes throughout the secondary. Meanwhile, Washington’s offense was putrid, with Carson Wentz making his first start at quarterback since Week 6.
Here are five takeaways from another frustrating Commanders’ loss.
Ron Rivera should own his decision to start Wentz
Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) is sacked by Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey (97) and Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said he was looking for a spark when he decided last week to bench Taylor Heinicke in favor of Carson Wentz. That decision backfired tremendously for Rivera, as Wentz was horrendous from start to finish, throwing three interceptions and passing for only 143 yards.
No one knows if Heinicke would’ve led Washington to a win if he had played. One thing is certain; the Commanders would at least have been competitive. Washington’s defense kept it in the game throughout the first half. However, everything fell apart in the second half, and a three-point deficit with Wentz felt like three scores.
Rivera wanted to see more from Wentz before making a decision on him in the offseason. While you could argue there was enough to see in the first six weeks, Rivera felt it was fair to give Wentz a better running game before jettisoning him.
Ultimately, Rivera had multiple opportunities to turn back to Heinicke, but he chose not to, opting to stay with Wentz. Why? Do you think he will admit starting Wentz was a mistake and immediately go back to Heinicke to save him and the Commanders? No chance.
This decision would put most coaches on the hot seat. Washington’s current ownership situation prevents that right now. Rivera owed his players better, and after seeing Wentz throw that second interception, he should’ve pulled him.
Carson Wentz is done
Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) carries the ball against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Carson Wentz seems like a great guy. The reports of him being a bad teammate were greatly exaggerated. However, Wentz, the quarterback, is bad and should never take a snap for Washington again. Not only that, Wentz should never be a team’s starting quarterback again. He looks like a deer in headlights. He is inaccurate, unathletic, holds the ball too long and makes terrible decisions with the football.
Multiple times during the game, teammates, such as Heinicke and Chase Young, went up to Wentz to encourage him and push him. It didn’t matter. Wentz looked intimidated by the moment.
Everyone knew how this trade would end. But there were signs of hope. The Commanders took a chance, and it didn’t work. It happens.
Years from now, Carson Wentz will be an interesting study. Only five years ago, he looked like the future of the position, but three years later the Eagles had seen enough and dumped him. The Colts took a chance, regretted it and sent him to Washington. Now, this offseason, the Commanders will release Wentz, and his future as an NFL quarterback appears questionable. He’ll land somewhere as a backup if that’s what he wants, but who knows at this point.
Sam Howell is the only choice for Week 18
Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) scrambles away from a diving Baltimore Ravens safety Ar’Darius Washington (29). Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Back when the Commanders were 1-4, it felt inevitable that we’d see rookie Sam Howell at some point. However, Wentz went down with an injury, Heinicke came in, and the Commanders started winning. Unfortunately, Heinicke wasn’t playing great over the past month, and Washington’s offense failed to finish drives.
With the Week 18 game meaningless in the standings, it’s time to play Howell. Don’t give us the excuse he’s not ready, or you don’t want to ruin him. Give him a shot. Did anyone see the offensive line Howell played behind with North Carolina in 2021? If Howell plays and has some success, it could give you an idea if you’d like to pair him with a veteran and allow him to compete to start next season.
No offense to Heinicke, but playing him accomplishes nothing next week. Wentz is not an option.
Back-to-back second-half collapses are alarming
Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera and Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Commanders were tied with the 49ers 7-7 at halftime in Week 16, yet lost 37-20. In Week 17, against the struggling Browns, Washington led 7-3 at halftime but lost 24-10.
Do we sense a theme here? This falls on the coaches. It seems that both of Washington’s coordinators, Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner, are adjusted to in the second half and lack the ability to counter. How else do you explain the collapses?
And what’s with the slow starts?
There are certain patterns you see in three years that remain. It never changes. It’s a coaching issue.
Jonathan Allen loss was a killer
Jonathan Allen #93 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
When Jonathan Allen went down in the second quarter of Sunday’s game, the defense had only allowed 81 total yards. Allen didn’t play in the second half, and the Browns had their way with the Commanders, as Deshaun Watson looked like a different player in the final 30 minutes. Allen’s absence, combined with the losses of safety Kam Curl, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste and linebacker Cole Holcomb proved too much to overcome. Cleveland, which looked lifeless on offense in the first 30 minutes, scored on three touchdown drives in the second half.
They say you learn of a player’s value when they aren’t there; well, there’s no doubting Allen’s importance to Washington’s defense.