The Commanders tried to hide Wentz and he still burned them originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
LANDOVER, Md. -- It was a new year but the same vibes at FedEx Field on Sunday.
Despite the importance of the Week 17 contest versus the Cleveland Browns, the Commanders' home stadium was mostly lifeless. As Washington attempted to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter, the fans in attendance reacted to the action with slightly more fervor than the numerous empty seats.
The team's most important players, meanwhile, failed to make a meaningful difference. Jonathan Allen exited in the first half with a knee injury, Terry McLaurin was only partially involved and Chase Young failed to build off of an encouraging season debut last week in San Francisco.
The surest sign yet that 2023 wouldn't start any differently than its many predecessors, though, is that the franchise's starting quarterback was totally unhelpful to the squad's cause.
What's worse: The signal-caller wasn't required to do all that much anyway.
Ron Rivera made the decision to deploy Carson Wentz instead of Taylor Heinicke in hopes of providing the club's faltering offense with a spark. Wentz, unfortunately, proved to be more of a spark for the opponent than his own side in the 24-10 loss.
Wentz, to be frank, had a horrible afternoon.
His first possession featured a poorly-thrown swing pass and then an interception. The game wasn't even five minutes old when that turnover occurred. "Hein-i-cke!" chants soon followed.
A turnover on downs transpired the next time the Commanders went to work, and on their third trip, Wentz tossed another pick. The "Hein-i-cke" chants only increased in volume.
Washington eventually did find the end zone late in the first half, which prevented a full-on meltdown by the supporters in Landover. However, those seven points were mostly made possible by running backs Brian Robinson Jr. and Jonathan Williams, as that epic march included 17 runs on 21 plays.
Yes, Wentz did find Jahan Dotson for a third-and-17 conversion and executed a sneak for the touchdown, but he was largely hidden during the hosts' lone successful drive. That's telling.
Even with his trimmed-down responsibilities, Wentz was unable to outdo the mild contributions Heinicke had been delivering. Forget outdoing, actually. He didn't come close to matching the guy he replaced.
Essentially, Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner tried to hide Wentz against Cleveland — and he still burned them with inaccuracy, three interceptions (he added a third as the fourth quarter wrapped up) and a complete lack of sparkage.
Wentz wasn't alone in his failures. The Commanders' defense ceded three passing touchdowns to Deshaun Watson, who entered the clash with two on his ledger. Both units committed awful mental mistakes as well, such as a fourth-and-1 toss call that ended up losing yardage and a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that aided the Browns ahead of their last touchdown.
The choice by Rivera to go to Wentz was also, at the very least, understandable. Washington was in a 0-2-1 slump and hadn't consistently moved the ball in more than a month.
But the justification for that choice doesn't matter anymore. The result is all that does. And that result is in line with countless past results for the organization, which is that they need to identify a quarterback who can be leaned on, not worked around.