The Washington Commanders suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Detroit Lions, falling to the NFC North opponent in a 36-27 defeat. Here are five takeaways from the matchup, presented by the Inaugural Washington Commanders Fan Cruise.
1. Carson Wentz was consistently under pressure.
Former Michigan Wolverine Aiden Hutchinson served up a reminder as to why he was the No. 2 overall pick.
Hutchinson, who recorded three sacks in the Lions victory, led a pass rush that disrupted and harassed Carson Wentz for most of the game, but particularly in the first half. The Commanders could not pick up a first down until the second quarter, and that was because the Lions were dedicated to smothering Wentz in the pocket, leading to a total loss of 19 yards.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was able to escape that pressure using his athleticism, and while Wentz eluded that pressure in the second half, it often put the offense in third-and-long situations. It also led to points after Wentz's fumble in the first quarter rolled out of the end zone.
The Commanders' offensive line has faced talented pass rushes in Jacksonville and Detroit. It has another coming up against Philadelphia, which had the best pass-rush win-rate in Week 1.
2. The run game struggled to alleviate that pressure.
Washington's ground game did not put up eye-popping numbers against the Jaguars, but it did help to ease up some of the pressure that Washington faced from their opponent's front. That was not the case against the Lions.
Antonio Gibson and the Commanders' running backs faced just as many problems as the passing game, as they finished the afternoon with 88 yards, including just 17 in the first half. They averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, whereas the Lions and D'Andre Swift were marching downfield to the tune of 7.8 yards per attempt.
Granted, things did improve in the second half, when Washington was in desperate need of offensive production. Wentz was able to supply some of that, as he scrambled twice for 23 yards with both runs coming on the Commanders' final scoring drive. His second carry, which resulted in a five-yard gain, got Washington down to the Lions' 2-yard line.
Washington must get both facets of its offense going if it hopes to get back on track against the Eagles.
The Washington Commanders face off against the Detroit in Week 2 of the 2022 season. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
3. Washington could not find a consistent answer for Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The Lions ended the game with 425 yards of offense; more than 40% of that came from Amon-Ra St. Brown.
St. Brown was one of the spark plugs that kept the Lions' offense humming throughout the afternoon. He was their top rusher and receiver with 184 yards of total offense, accounting for two scores. It was St. Brown that gave the Lions a jolt after their opening drive ended with a three-and-out, turning a wide-open reception on a third-and-3 into a 49-yard gash to the defense.
St. Brown also quelled the Commanders' momentum after dwindling the Lions' 22-0 lead down to seven points. He took a handoff down the right sideline for a 58-yard gain, and three plays later, the Lions added on to their lead again with a 22-yard reception from Swift.
Slot receivers have been a problem in back-to-back weeks for the Commanders, and the secondary's challenges are not going to get easier against the Eagles, who have a group of receivers that includes A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.
4. The defense could not take advantage of a depleted Lions offensive line.
There was a wave of optimism for the Commanders when the list of Lions inactives was announced. Detroit's starting center and left guard were ruled out of the game, and it seemed like the defensive line was going to have a strong afternoon.
But Swift and the Lions had other plans.
The Lions were careful with Swift, who dealt with an ankle injury throughout the week. He only carried the ball five times, but he made the most of them with 56 yards, a chunk of which came on a 50-yard gain after running through a crease on the right side of his offensive line.
St. Brown also had his moments pacing the Lions with two carries for 68 yards, but it was Jamaal Williams who saw the most work in the backfield with 12 carries that resulted in 53 yards. He consistently put the Lions in ideal down-and-distance situations. One of his best stretches came in the second quarter, as his 24 rushing yards helped Detroit take its 22-0 lead.
Like the passing game, Washington's ground defense will not get a break against Miles Sanders, Jalen Hurts and the Eagles. It must quickly find a way to break the habit of allowing teams to rush for 100-plus yards on the ground.
5. The rollercoaster must level out going forward.
Rollercoasters are exciting for a time. They deliver plenty of thrills if they have a satisfying ending.
But all rides must stop eventually, and that's where Washington finds itself heading into Week 3.
The highs and lows from the Jaguars win were back in a much larger form against the Lions. The depression of a 22-0 start was followed by four touchdowns in one half. Jahan Dotson became the first rookie in franchise history to score a touchdown in the first two games of his career since Terry McLaurin in 2019. It was a reminder that the Commanders' offense can be legit when it wants to be and can keep them in games, regardless of the opponent.
However, unlike in Week 1, the thrills were not enough to pull Washington out of the hole it had dug itself into during the first. As encouraging as the fight and resilience was in the second half, those factors on their own do not win games often. Simply put, consistency is what consistently puts teams over the top.
The Commanders have yet to put together a full game this season. They will need to do so against the Eagles in an early division matchup.
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