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Commanders offense holds itself accountable for first half mishaps


An unfortunate trend is beginning to take shape for the Washington Commanders, and it started with the offense's showing in Detroit.

The unit that jumped out to a 14-3 lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars was nowhere to be found against the Lions, who piled on a 22-0 advantage in the first half while Washington's inert offense struggled to find a first down. The Commanders managed to ignite themselves in the third quarter, but coming back from three scores proved to be too much.

The same thing happened against the Philadelphia Eagles the following week. The dam that was the Commanders' defense, which in fairness did an admirable job of containing Jalen Hurts and the Eagles' offense, broke in the second quarter, letting loose a unit that scored 24 unanswered points and put up 322 total yards in the first half. This time, however, there was no comeback from the Commanders' offense, and the home team fell, 24-8.

For the past two weeks, Washington has dug itself into double-digit holes in the first half. It was outscored 46-0 in the first quarter and second quarters against the Lions and Eagles, which is more frustrating when accounting for the talent that is on offense. The players are determined to remedy those issues with 14 games ahead of them.

"You're not going to win too many games without putting any points on the board in the first half like we have in the last few weeks," Terry McLaurin said. "We all know that, and we all have to take individual accountability for that and improve."

There is certainly plenty of room for improvement after the results of the past two weeks. The Commanders put up just 106 combined net yards of offense in the first halves against the Lions and Eagles, averaging 1.85 and 2.0 yards per play in those spans, respectively. 

For Carson Wentz, who finished Sunday's game with 211 passing yards, many of the mistakes can be attributed to execution, which was in short supply during the first half of the Eagles game. Some of that can be credited to the nine sacks the team allowed, six of which came in the first two quarters, and Wentz took some of the blame for that. 

"I've got to be better," Wentz said. "I have to get rid of the ball in a lot of those situations, find a check down and move on, different things like that."

Other times, the lack of momentum was a result of Wentz's throws being a tick off the mark. A pass from Wentz to John Bates on a first down in the second quarter was a little low and led to an incompletion, nullifying what would have been a decent gain. Wentz had McLaurin open on the next play, but the ball was a bit high and behind its target.

Both would have resulted in first downs. Instead, the punting unit trotted out onto the field.

"There's some things that he's got to see and decide on quicker," Ron Rivera said Monday. "I think also what happened too, was there were a couple times when he did speed himself up. He didn't give the play an opportunity to develop a little bit more."

It is not all on Wentz, though. There were moments when his skill players did not deliver in critical moments. McLaurin had one such play in the fourth quarter on a third-and-22, when he uncharacteristically let the ball slip through his hands. Granted, the ball may have been a bit high, but it was well within McLaurin's ability to bring it in.

"I think for myself I just want to try to focus on what I can do better," McLaurin said. "I've had some missed opportunities over the past few weeks that I want to improve on, and that's kind of where I start."

However, Rivera admitted after the game that the team could have done a better job of getting the ball to McLaurin, whose first target did not come until the second quarter. He was not targeted again until midway into the third quarter. 

"I think when you have a talent like that yeah, we probably try need to get the ball to him a little bit more," Rivera said. "I do know, though, a lot of it has to do with what happened in the first half." 

Running back Antonio Gibson called the mistakes that Washington made "personal," saying that it is on them to figure out an answer. 

"They did nothing special out there. [They] Had a hell of a game, but they did nothing special to us to where we didn't know what they were doing. We just have to go back and be us," Gibson said.

When Washington does flaunt its potential, the offense has shown that it can be a difficult unit to defend against. The ugliness from the first half against the Lions does not change the fact that Wentz and the Commanders nearly brought themselves back to make the game more competitive. 

And against the Eagles, the Commanders did move the ball deep into the opponents' territory three times in the second half. That does not excuse their mistakes when they got in those positions, although it does show that they can move the ball. 

A 1-2 record is not ideal, but as Rivera and several players have pointed out, there is plenty of time to fix their issues. But as Rivera said on Monday, "the guys that need to play better, got to play better." 

"We've looked at it. We've figured it out. We've addressed it. Now we got to go out and do it," Rivera said. 

The first opportunity to right the wrongs of the past two weeks will be on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. The hope is that the Commanders will buck their trend and get back to .500 with the next three months in front of them. 

"This NFL is fast," Wentz said. "It's fast and furious, and we've got to learn from it quickly and go down and face a good Dallas team next week. Hopefully, we start out better and learn from it and execute a little bit better early on."

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