I had the opportunity to fill in for Julie Donaldson taping "Coach Commands" last week and watched Logan Paulsen do a film breakdown with Rivera. Rarely is it advisable to show a bad play for said breakdown, but Logan was adamant that the 64-yard Khalil Herbert first half run that included some serious over-pursuit and two glaring missed tackles was worth it. And he was right, partially because the outcome was one of the three stops inside the 6-yard line that was the difference in the Commanders' win, but also because of one specific player's effort.
Defensive end Casey Toohill is blocked to the ground on this play. Herbert, as you'll recall, finds room to the left, breaks one tackle, then cuts back to the center of the field after making a second Commander miss and was in a foot race to the near side pylon. Three Commanders tackled him at the 6-yard line, but one of them was Toohill, who ran down a running back 60 yards away from the play after he'd been blocked to the ground. During his pursuit, he adeptly avoided a Bears receiver who, had he clipped him, would have rendered the effort meaningless. If this was college football, Toohill would have earned multiple stickers to put on his helmet.
Paulsen suggested that even in a play that Rivera's team would love to get back, there was a reason to showcase this for public dissemination, and it seemed Rivera agreed. As an aside, Paulsen is one of the best former players breaking down film in our business, and we are lucky to have him doing this for our team. I hope he stays under the radar enough that we can keep him around.
For most of the country, this past Thursday's game was about so many other things than the fact that Washington won and came about three inches from seeing its season disintegrate. The short week felt like a month amid all the news cycles, and the game featured little offense -- a Thursday staple this year. But what I saw was more than a few of those Toohill moments which serve as tidbits of effort that should tell you what a team is truly made of. When effort is off, the season is over. What effort can do is overcome mistakes and vulnerabilities.
Jon Allen and Daron Payne deserve credit for their effort. Both went off the field with lower body injuries only to return and be part of one of the most memorable nights any defensive line could hope for. It bears repeating that Washington stopped Chicago three times inside their own five and gave up zero points on each instance. How often has that happened on the road? Go rewatch the Fields scramble that set up the final drive at the five that would settle the game. There were plenty of players that had their hands on their hips completely gassed chasing Fields all night.
But that didn't stop Cole Holcomb from getting to the edge to ensure Fields didn't turn the corner on his scramble on first and goal from the five. It didn't stop Darrick Forrest’s tight jostling in one on one coverage on third down in the back of the end zone or the game winning play that Benjamin St-Juste made on Darnell Mooney when the Bears lined up in a formation to get a one on one matchup for the game. Mooney didn't just run a simple slant or fade, he flashed inside before turning back to the outside, and if St-Juste doesn't stay stride for stride, Mooney gets those extra three inches without even sweating.
The Washington Commanders are taking on the Chicago Bears for their Thursday Night Football matchup in Week 6. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
It's fitting this night included the first career touchdown for Brian Robinson Jr. Effort, will and overcoming adversity will have him in line for NFL honors let alone local admiration.
And it's even more fitting that Carson Wentz is finally getting some tips of the cap after gutting out a win with some form of shoulder injury and what we now know was a finger injury. For the second straight week, Wentz threw a block for a runner, this past one is where he cracked a pro bowler in Roquan Smith. At that point, Wentz knew his hand was vulnerable but did it anyway. And after last week's debate on what may or may not be the reason the NFC East has a bunch of front runners this year, he earned some respect and there is only one word for it. Quarterback. Period.
The point of this isn't to suggest that everything is perfect. It's not. The record isn't good enough, and there are many reasons why this franchise continues to try to generate positive attention. But it is to say that what the players and coaches did on a short week that felt like a month is always worth profiling because in the end when the games kick off all I ever want from my team is effort like it matters as much to them as it does to me. And in Chicago, even if it was ugly and the world wants to focus on everything but them winning, I saw the kind of effort that wins. And you saw it, too.