Commanders find a way to beat Packers when Taylor Heinicke is in charge.
At the two-minute mark of the first half, people started to boo, and then they started to yell, “Sell the team!” The Washington Commanders had just missed another chance to score on Sunday. During a break in the game, co-owner Tanya Snyder appeared on the big screen to talk about breast cancer as part of a public service announcement.
People at FedEx Field went crazy. If there weren’t so many Green Bay Packers fans there, their voices would have carried even further.
Heinicke might have heard it. Not long after the Commanders came back for the second half, the backup quarterback threw a 37-yard pass to wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who caught it for the game-winning touchdown. With new hope, the crowd started to cheer again.
Early in the game, Heinicke made some bad throws and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. However, he came back in the second half to lead the Commanders to a 23-21 win, their second in a row.
Heinicke said, “I go out there and play like it’s my last game.” “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but that’s just how I play, and I think that’s when I play my best.”
Even though the game started out badly, Washington won and is now 3-4. The locker room felt different after the game, and for the first time since the first game of the season, there were signs of complementary football. Sunday, the offense, defense, and special teams all found their rhythm, which turned a lot of the frustration from the past few weeks into new hope.
Heinicke finished the game by going 20 for 33, throwing for 201 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. This gave him an 85.5 passer rating, which could have been much worse.
The fan favorite who didn’t get picked in the draft was chosen to start while Carson Wentz recovered from finger surgery. He started Sunday’s game 0 for 4. Even though he started 15 games last season and had more experience than any other Washington quarterback in this offense, his timing was off. A pass meant for McLaurin up the middle in the first quarter was thrown behind the receiver and almost got picked off. After a few plays, the Commanders picked up a fumbled punt in the Packers’ red zone. From the 3-yard line, Heinicke threw a fade pass to tight end Cole Turner that was too high and had too much speed.
Washington could only get a field goal, which cut their early deficit to 7-3. Later, the Commanders wasted another gift from the Packers: an illegal contact penalty that took away a Heinicke fumble that had been run back for a touchdown.
“I was kind of freaking out,” Heinicke said, adding that he didn’t know a penalty had been called at first. “I thought, ‘Not again!’ “
If the play had stood, it would have been the second turnover that the Packers directly took advantage of. Earlier in the second quarter, De’Vondre Campbell’s pick-six gave the Packers a 14-3 lead.
Instead, Washington, which was behind 14-10 at the time, got a second chance and five free yards at the Green Bay 34. But the drive stalled, and Joey Slye’s 47-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright.
A short time later, people started to boo. The crowd then started chanting, “Sell the team!” This is a bad sign for the team because it happened just days after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said there’s “merit to remove” Commanders owner Daniel Snyder because of the team’s many problems off the field.
Tanya Snyder yelled “Hail to the Redskins!” during a pregame ceremony with more than 100 alumni and former cheerleaders at the stadium’s Legends Plaza. This made some former players cheer. She didn’t try to fix it when she used the team’s old name, which was an interesting contrast to the long process of rebranding and the insistence on culture change.
Near the end of the first half, Commanders fans in the stadium cheered much louder, but as the play got better, they changed their tune. Late in the second quarter, Tress Way blasted a punt 68 yards, but it was brought down at the 1-yard line. This stopped the Packers from getting back into the game.
At the beginning of the second half, it only took Washington five plays to get into the end zone and take the lead. Curtis Samuel ran for 16 yards, and Armani Rogers caught a pass for 9 yards. Then Heinicke threw that rainbow pass to McLaurin for 37 yards.
McLaurin said, “When I knew the go route was on and I saw man coverage with no help, I didn’t think, ‘Oh, they don’t respect me.'” “But at the same time, you look at that and think, ‘Wow, this is a great chance for me.'” Taylor could not have done a better job of getting the ball where it needed to be. He almost gave it to me on foot. It just fell from the sky. I told him that was the best reputation we’d had since we’d met.
Coach Ron Rivera said that Heinicke’s second-half improvement was due to his “underdog mentality.”
“You look at what he does and how he does it, and you can see where he went wrong and what he needed to fix,” Rivera said. “Time is everything…. You can tell by the way the throw to Terry was timed. It was just about the best thing that could have happened.”
The touchdown gave the Commanders a big boost and turned the game in their favor. Meanwhile, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was getting more and more upset with his receivers. The Packers have lost three games in a row. The energy gave Washington’s defense a boost, and they quickly got the Packers (3-4) off the field. This gave the Commanders a chance to score again, and Slye’s 31-yard field goal made the score 20-14.
Washington’s offense has been bad to terrible for most of the season, but its defense has been getting better and better. The line was the only one in the league with three players who had 20 or more quarterback hits through Week 6. These players were tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne and end Montez Sweat. The defense’s goal-line stops made the difference in a win at Chicago the week before. On Sunday, it stopped the Packers on a fourth-down play, and another stop late in the game sealed the win. The Packers were also unable to score on third down, where they went 0 for 6.
Early in the fourth quarter, when the Commanders couldn’t get the ball into the end zone after getting to the 2-yard line for Green Bay, Slye kicked a 19-yard field goal to give his team a 23-14 lead. But that gave Rodgers plenty of time to do some magic at the end of the game. Sure enough, the Packers answered with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Jones, bringing the score to 23-21 and giving the Commanders close to four minutes to run out the clock.
The Washington Capitals gave McLaurin a three-year, $71 million contract extension this offseason. Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner have been saying for weeks that the team needs to find a way to get the ball to McLaurin sooner and more often.
On a very important second-and-six, Heinicke found him for a 14-yard catch. This kept the Commanders from going to a third-and-long, which would have likely led to a punt. When they got to third and long three players later, McLaurin saved the day again by catching a pass from Heinicke for 12 yards while being closely guarded. This moved the Commanders to the Green Bay 44-yard line.
“When you make that play, it’s like, “Damn, you’ve been working for this. McLaurin said, “This is what you’ve been waiting for. “I just hope that keeps up, not just for me but for all of our receivers as well, because I really think we have a strong group that can make big plays down the field.”
The catch put McLaurin over the 3,500-yard mark for his career and pretty much made sure that the team would win. It also got the crowd at FedEx Field chanting again, this time “Terry! Terry!
After a late punt put Green Bay deep and out of timeouts, the Commanders stopped the Packers from making a last-ditch hook and lateral play to get into the end zone as time ran out. When the chaos stopped, Commanders fans cheered and gave each other high-fives as they left the stadium.