The Washington Commanders returned to FedExField or Week 7 and claimed their second straight victory with a 23-21 win over the Green Bay Packers. Here are five takeaways from the afternoon, presented by the Inaugural Washington Commanders' Fan Cruise.
1. The defense shut down the Packers on third down.
The Packers' offense is not as dynamic as it was in years past; that much was obvious through six games this season. Still, they do have Aaron Rodgers, and the future Hall of Famer normally finds a way to get the unit back on track.
And Rodgers may still do that, but that did not happen on Sunday.
The Packers struggled all afternoon to put together consistent drives. Their two touchdowns were more outliers than the standard of their performance, and it was a testament to how prepared the defense, which came into Sunday with the third-best third-down defense in the league, was for Rodgers and the Green Bay unit. The Packers went 0-for-6 on third down, marking the first time since 1999 that they failed to convert at least one attempt in a game.
After Rodgers threw a four-yard touchdown to Aaron Jones in the first quarter, it took the Packers until 3:36 left in the game to find the end zone again. That gave the offense some breathing room and allowed it to climb out of a 14-3 hole.
It was a season-low day for Rodgers, who completed 23 passes for 194 yards. Even more impressive was the ground defense, which allowed just 38 yards from Jones and A.J. Dillon.
2. Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson balled out.
Ron Rivera has often spoken about the vision he has for what the duo of Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson can become.
On Sunday, we got the best look at what that tandem can do.
Gibson and Robinson were the fuel for Washington's offense, combining for 163 total yards and accounting for 44% of the team's offensive production. Robinson continued to set career highs, as he led the team with 73 rushing yards on 20 carries. Gibson, meanwhile, surpassed 700 career receiving yards, becoming the eighth running back in franchise history to record at least 700 receiving yards within their first three seasons.
Perhaps the best example of what they can accomplish together came after the Commanders had gone down by 11 points. Washington went on a 12-play scoring drive with Gibson and Robinson accounting for 54 of the 83 yards needed to get in the end zone.
Gibson and Robinson supplied the Commanders with 132 of the offense's 166 yards on the ground. It is clear that leaning on them is a recipe for success.
The Washington Commanders take on the Green Bay Packers in Week 7. (Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
3. Special teams came up big again.
Washington's special teams unit delivered one of the most important plays of the game in Week 6 against the Chicago Bears. This week's play from the unit might have been just as impactful.
The offense had just sputtered on a three-and-out to follow Rodgers' touchdown pass to Jones, meaning the Commanders needed to put the ball back to Green Bay. Tress Way launched the ball back to Amari Rodgers, but right before he could take a stab at a return, the ball popped loose from his grasp and was recovered by Percy Butler.
Washington could only get three points out of the turnover, but it was a much-needed break that swung momentum in the home team's favor. And considering how the game was ultimately won by two points, that field goal ended up being a critical point in the game.
As for Way, the former Pro Bowler did what he has done best for his entire career: pin offenses deep in their own territory. He had four punts for 192 yards with three inside the 20-yard line. The best play from Way came in the closing seconds of the first half when he placed the ball at the Packers' 1-yard line, eliminating any chance of Rodgers sneaking in a few last second points in the second quarter.
4. Terry McLaurin was clutch.
Terry McLaurin showed once again why the Commanders were smart to give him a contract extension in the offseason.
McLaurin finished the game with five receptions for 73 yards, but his performance was highlighted by two plays. The first came during the opening minutes of the third quarter, when they were down 14-10 and were in need of a jolt. Five plays into the Commanders' opening drive, McLaurin provided exactly that, beating out cornerback Jaire Alexander on a 37-yard touchdown catch. It was his first score since Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The second play did not result in any points, but it was just as important. Washington faced a third-and-9 clinging to a two-point with 2:12 left on the clock. Taylor Heinicke looked for McLaurin, who was 12 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and near the right sideline. McLaurin secured the pass, which allowed the Commanders to bleed the clock all the way down to 23 seconds before giving the ball back to the Packers, who had no timeouts left.
Rivera said after the game that the play spoke to how much confidence the team has in McLaurin.
"That's why we did what we did in terms of signing him. Those are the kind of moments [where] Terry is immense, and we've got to be willing to take those shots."
5. Taylor Heinicke bounced back from a rough start.
Things were not great for Heinicke to start the afternoon. His first 11 plays included three incompletions on six passing attempts and a pick six. Needless to say, it was not the way he had hoped to begin his first start of the season.
After the interception, things began to change for the quarterback. He started to look more like the gun-slinging, risk-taking, electrifying quarterback that Washington fans have grown to love, and by the end of the game, his stat line showed how much he improved with each possession. He ended up completing 60.6% of his passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
The change was the most apparent in the second half. Heinicke completed seven consecutive passes, including the 37-yarder to McLaurin, and did not have a dropped pass until the end of the third quarter. Another throw -- a 26-yard completion to Curtis Samuel -- kept the offense on the field for a 19-yard field goal six plays later.
As McLaurin said earlier in the week, it is difficult to know what to expect from Heinicke. But if the quarterback can build on the second half he had against Green Bay, it could lead to Washington continuing its winning streak.