The win streak is over. After a fourth-quarter push by the visitors, the Washington Commanders were vanquished by the Minnesota Vikings, 20-17, at FedExField. Here are three numbers to know from the defeat:
One could say penalties were the issue of more quality than quantity yesterday for the Commanders. "Three" is no staggering statistic for this category, but a closer look at Washington's flags reveals two costly, game-shifting moments.
In the fourth quarter, the Commanders led 17-7 but knew they could not get complacent if they were to close out a big win against a strong Vikings side. Early in the period, it looked like Benjamin St-Juste had come up with a massive play to extend Washington's advantage after he picked off a Kirk Cousins pass intended for Justin Jefferson and ran into the end zone for the score.
The refs, however, called it back and determined that St-Juste was guilty of pass interference. The Vikings regained possession and marched down the field for a field goal, chomping into Washington's lead. Momentum tilted towards Minnesota from there -- the Commanders did not put up points again and were unable to stop the Vikings from scoring on their subsequent drives.
The second brutal penalty came with just under two minutes to go in the game. The Commanders defense had done a solid job of preventing the Vikings from getting into the end zone, having to settle for a field goal instead. Following the field goal attempt, Washington's offense would get the ball back in time for another shot at points. But, on the Vikings field goal attempt, Commanders defensive tackle John Ridgeway was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, which gave the Vikings a fresh set of downs and the ability to run out the clock.
Cousins may have had a celebratory evening following Minnesota's win, but he is likely to have had images of Washington's front rushing at him when closing his eyes last night. The Commanders' defense hounded Cousins all game, hitting him eleven times throughout. Allen led the unit with four hits followed by Montez Sweat (3) and Daron Payne (2). One of Payne's hits included a sack for a nine-yard loss in the first. That play brought his single-season sack total to 5.5, the highest total yet in his career. That is pretty impressive considering it is Week 9.
Washington's other sack of the game came at the hands of a rather unusual suspect. Credit to St-Juste, immediately after his costly DPI call in the fourth, he responded by blitzing off the edge to sack Cousins.
This highlights what was overall a formidable performance by Washington's defense on the day. Making life difficult for an opposing defense and stopping the football is only one part of the game though, of course.
The Washington Commanders have begun their Week 9 game against the Minnesota Vikings. (Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
Which brings us to the third and final number, a number that underscores the struggles of the Commanders offense yesterday. Taylor Heinicke & Co. got off to a lethargic start at FedExField and could not find its flow to produce. While the defense was doing its job and held the Vikings to seven points in the first half, the offense took 29:23 minutes of regulation to finally score -- a Joey Slye field goal with just about 37 seconds left in the half.
Up until the drive, the Commanders had been unable to convert on any of their third down opportunities. Heinicke's throws were frequently batted down or tipped, and the unit overall just did not force or create moment to break free. By the time the offense did start to make plays and exploit opportunities, it was a matter of too little, too late.