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Hail or Fail: Commanders’ penalties, lack of takeaways spell defeat at Dallas

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 10/3/2022 Scott Allen
Washington Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson makes a touchdown catch in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post) Washington Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson makes a touchdown catch in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

A look at the good (Hail!) and bad (Fail!) from the Washington Commanders’ 25-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Hail: Jahan Dotson

The fact that Dotson, with his modest three catches for 43 yards, was a bright spot for the Commanders says a lot about how things went for Washington at AT&T Stadium. One of the rookie wide receiver’s grabs was a 10-yard touchdown on a fade route in the second quarter, giving him four scores this year. The only other player in franchise history with at least four receiving touchdowns in his first four games was Charlie Brown, who had five TDs through four weeks in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Brown caught a sixth touchdown pass in his fifth game and added two more in Week 8. Dotson left the game with a hamstring injury but didn’t seem too concerned afterward.

Fail: Turnover differential

The Commanders lost the turnover battle for a fourth consecutive game, thanks to Carson Wentz’s two interceptions and a pair of picks of their own that were negated by penalties. Washington has an NFL-worst one takeaway — Darrick Forrest’s fourth-quarter interception that sealed a Week 1 win. The Commanders’ minus-six turnover differential is tied with the Indianapolis Colts for second worst in the league. Washington hasn’t finished a season with a positive turnover differential since 2019.

Facing problems big and small, Commanders are doomed by their own mistakes

Hail: Washington’s run defense

The Commanders struggled to stop the run in their first two games but have been downright stingy in that department over the past two weeks, limiting the Philadelphia Eagles and Cowboys to 2.3 yards per carry. Washington held Ezekiel Elliott to 49 yards on 19 carries and did an even better job against Tony Pollard, who managed only six yards on eight carries. A tougher test awaits in Week 5, when Derrick Henry — fresh off his first 100-yard game of the season — and the Tennessee Titans visit FedEx Field.

Fail: All-black uniforms

Not to yuck anyone’s yum, because there are plenty of people who seem quite fond of the all-black uniforms the Commanders debuted Sunday, but the ensemble is mediocre and represents a missed opportunity. Maybe it’s the almost complete lack of burgundy, the thick gray camouflage stripe on the pants or the “W” on the front of the helmet? At best, they look like Pittsburgh Steelers knockoffs. At worst, well, as a friend texted during the game, they look like “first drafts of what they wore on ‘Any Given Sunday.’ ” (Not even Willie Beamen could’ve saved Washington from defeat.) Anyway, I look forward to the news release about the black jerseys setting sales records in the coming weeks.

Hail: Joey Slye

Slye didn’t have an official field goal attempt through three games after his successful try last week was wiped off the scoreboard by a penalty. He got another chance Sunday and didn’t miss, drilling a 45-yarder in the third quarter that cut the Cowboys’ lead to 15-10. Slye is 13 for 13 on field goals since signing with Washington in November, though he has missed two extra points, including a somewhat important one against the Detroit Lions in Week 2. Slye’s counterpart, Cowboys kicker Brett Maher, made all four of his attempts and is now 10 for 11 this season. Every other team has attempted at least four field goals.

Fail: Penalties

Washington’s 136 penalty yards on 11 penalties were its most since it was flagged 10 times for 147 yards in a 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in 2018. Cornerback William Jackson III committed two pass interference penalties, and Wentz was dinged twice for intentional grounding. There were holds and false starts and more. Benjamin St-Juste appeared to have his first career interception in the second quarter, but an illegal contact penalty on the second-year cornerback earlier in the play gave the Cowboys an automatic first down and sparked a long scoring drive. “We hurt ourselves and took ourselves out of certain opportunities,” Commanders Coach Ron Rivera said.

Commanders play-calling prompts questions about the passing game

Hail: Saahdiq Charles

Charles, a fourth-round pick in 2020, started five games along the offensive line over his first two seasons and played eight offensive snaps in Week 1 as an injury replacement. He was relegated to the bench in Washington’s previous two games but was called upon to replace struggling right guard Trai Turner in the first quarter. Charles was far from perfect, but he played well and had a huge block to spring Antonio Gibson for a nice gain on a screen pass.

Fail: Conservative play-calling

Trailing by five with 1:04 remaining in the first half, Washington began a drive from its own 25-yard line. With two timeouts, there was plenty of time to attempt to get into position for a field goal before halftime. Instead, Washington called a running play on first down and let the clock run. After Wentz completed a short pass to Logan Thomas on second down and J.D. McKissic ran for a first down on third and short, Washington used its second timeout. By then, only 17 seconds remained. On the next play, Wentz took a deep shot for Dotson that was intercepted by Trevon Diggs. Trailing by 12 points early in the fourth quarter, Washington called a run on third and three from its own 40-yard line.


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