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Five takeaways from Washington's loss to Miami


The Washington Commanders dropped their fourth straight loss with a 45-15 defeat against the Miami Dolphins. Here are five takeaways from Week 13, presented by Maryland Lottery.

1. The defense had no answer for Tyreek Hill.

If there was a list of things Washington needed to do to pull off a win over Miami, limiting Tyreek Hill would have been at the top. Unfortunately, the Commanders joined the long list of NFL teams who got burned by the veteran wideout, who finished with 157 yards on five receptions.

"What we tried to do is make sure we had people over the top more so than anything else," said head coach **Ron Rivera.** "We've just got to be able to make sure we're where we need to be."

That might have been the intent for the Commanders, but the results on the field tell a different story. On Hill's first touchdown of the day -- a 78-yard house call on the Dolphins' third offensive play -- Hill breezed past Quan Martin, who was lined up man coverage. 

The problem was that the next closest defender to Hill -- safety Kam Curl -- was on the other end of the field and could not catch up. Hill's second score -- this time a 60-yarder -- was much of the same. Granted, Hill made an impressive adjustment mid-route to make the catch, but he had already beaten Kendall Fuller and Percy Butler to get behind the Commanders' defense.

It was already going to be difficult for the Commanders to stop one of the most talented offenses in football. It's even harder when that offense's best player has such an easy path towards making highlight plays.

Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders during their Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

2. A bad offensive habit.

A trend is starting to develop for the Commanders' offense, and it isn't a good one.

As Andrew Van Ginkel ran Sam Howell’s pass back 33 yards for a touchdown that put the Dolphins up 17-0, it marked the third time that Washington has given up a pick six in as many games. The first, which came in the second matchup against the New York Giants, was the result of a poor attempt from Howell at throwing the ball away, while the other two came from defenders jumping a route and running almost unopposed to the end zone.

In Week 13, Van Ginkel never broke stride when he grabbed a screen pass intended for **Jahan Dotson.**

"When I'm just catching and throwing so quick, it's kind of hard to see him," Howell said after the game. "Usually, the defensive end is not in that type of position to make a play on the ball. But yeah, just unfortunate." 

Here's something even more unfortunate: over the last two weeks, the defenses for the Commanders' opponents have gotten in the end zone as often as them. It's one part of a larger problem for the offense; while there have been the occasional bursts of production -- their only two 30-point performances have come against one team -- the Commanders have been held to 20 points or fewer in eight games.

With the Commanders leading the league in points allowed, that makes it hard to compete.

3. Still too many explosive plays.

It's been the story for the Commanders' defense, not just for this year, but also for the last three seasons. The unit simply gives up too many explosive plays, and it's a problem that has continued to confound the team on a weekly basis.

Hill was the biggest culprit, with his 78-yard touchdown being the longest reception of his career, but he was hardly the only Dolphins player who gashed the Commanders' secondary.

Including Hill's two touchdowns, the Commanders gave up eight plays of at least 15 yards and four of at least 20. All but one of them were through the air, which tracks for the way Washington has played so far this season. The Commanders currently lead the league in allowing explosive plays through the air.

Even more frustrating was when the plays were given up. Six of the Dolphins' explosive plays came on third down. At times, the Commanders did a good job of backing up Miami with six tackles for loss. The problem was that Miami gained all of that back and then some.

4. No targets for Terry.

**Terry McLaurin** is the Commanders' best offensive weapon, and he'll continue to be as long as he's playing football in Washington.

But for a myriad of reasons on Sunday, McLaurin was a nonfactor against the Dolphins with zero yards on three targets. It was just the second time in his career that he had been held without a catch.

"It comes with it when it's tough," McLaurin said. "Yeah, it's frustrating but I'm going to keep coming in and practicing and playing hard. As long as I turn on the film, making extra blocks on the field, trying to clear it out for guys. I'll continue to run my routes hard, so that's what I'm going to do."

It took three drives for McLaurin to get a pass thrown in his direction. It was a third-and-3 from the Commanders' 32-yard line, but the pass was out of his reach. The next was one that McLaurin could have made on a shot to the end zone from the Dolphins' 34-yard line but didn't bring it in.

Howell took some of the blame for McLaurin's lack of involvement.

"He is the best part of our offense and we got to find ways to get him the football; I've got to find ways to get him the football. Obviously, he had a few targets, but three targets are not enough for your best player."

Washington still has daunting teams left on the schedule after the bye week. Getting McLaurin more involved would give them a better chance at winning some of them.

5. Time to reflect, recharge for the final stretch.

The bye week is a time for reflection, and the Commanders have plenty to ponder as they prepare for the final four games of the season.

After getting out to such a strong start, the Commanders have one of the worst records in football and are hoping for a strong finish. The playoffs are still mathematically possible, but the team is focused more on improvement than postseason contention, and rightly so.

A season filled with promise turned into one mired by disappointment on both sides of the ball. The defense is either at or near the bottom of most categories, and while the offense might be better statistically from a year ago, the marginal improvements are too few to compensate for the defense's unexpected regression.

Here's how the rest of the season looks for the Commanders: road games against the Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets, followed by back-to-back home games against the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. All four of those teams are in the playoff hunt, and Washington is not favored to win against any of them.

So, a week off will likely do Washington some good.

"We have four games left to play, quarter of the season," Rivera said. "As I said earlier, it's about the professionals that these young men are that they've got to rely on that, fall back on that and show up and do their jobs."

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