The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
I saw a pile of Christmas miracles this past weekend, from Kirk Cousins leading the biggest halftime comeback in NFL history, Tom Brady blowing a 17-point lead, the Cowboys seeing their 17-point lead not stand in the second half in Jacksonville and a bizarre ending that even Bill Belichick couldn't have conceived ever happening to him.
So, while we might not be in the spirit this week off a loss to the Giants, the reality is the Commanders do not need any divine help to turn early 2023 into a playoff season.
Let's start with our Naughty and Nice List.
The Refs. I'm still waiting on an explanation of the procedural penalty on Terry McLaurin that took a touchdown off the board late in the loss against New York. McLaurin is on the outside of the numbers on a play he'd play no role in. Even if McLaurin is an inch or two short of where he needed to be (and he asked this official multiple times if he was where he needed to be), how this warranted a flag at this juncture of the game is inexplicable.
3rd down offense: The Commanders converted 4-of-24 third downs in the two games against New York. Their 34% conversion rate is bottom five in the league. In the first two games of the season, Washington went 14 of 25 on third down. That would account for the best rate in the league over the course of the season. Clearly this has been an Achilles heel that needs to be addressed.
Jahan Dotson: He has been targeted 15 times the last two weeks, giving him a highlight reel 61-yard catch and two touchdowns. After missing a little more than a month with a hamstring issue, the first-round pick spent a few games as mainly a decoy. But the renewed trust in his playmaking ability has given the offense the type of primary or secondary downfield threat that was envisioned when he was selected in the first round of the draft.
Brian Robinson Jr.: He easily could have three consecutive 100-yard games. Against the Giants this past Sunday, he averaged nearly eight yards per carry and should have had the potential game tying touchdown stand if not for the aforementioned call on McLaurin. Robinson runs angry, and while he has yet to show a propensity to be a home run-hitting back, he serves as a heartbeat of a power rush attack that Ron Rivera wants as his team's offensive identity.
As for the Christmas Miracle the team seeks in San Francisco: Washington has shown the propensity to win in big spots against some of the league's best.
In 2021, Washington went into their bye at 2-6 and on a four-game losing streak. They hadn't scored more than 13 points in any of their previous three games. But Washington picked off Tom Brady twice in the first quarter and got two touchdowns from Antonio Gibson to upset the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, 29-19. Taylor Heinicke was an efficient 26-for -32 passing, and McLaurin made one of the toughest catches you'll ever see on a third-and-5 in the Tampa red zone that was part of a 19-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
One month and five days ago, Washington went to Philadelphia on Monday night and ended the Eagles' unbeaten season by rushing the ball 49 times. The Eagles turned the ball over four times.
While San Francisco is arguably the hottest team in the league and on a seven-game win streak with only two of them being decided by one score. The idea that Washington can't pull this off is ignoring their recent history.
Here is what I have on my Christmas Wish List:
-The return of Benjamin St. Juste. The Commanders have given up few downfield passing plays as St. Juste has rested from an ankle injury. But his presence has clearly been missed. Here is hoping he can return ASAP.
-Red zone conversions need to go up. Here's an unusual stat: The Commanders are better at converting touchdowns in the red zone on the road than they are at home. After two failed red zone trips that ended in no points against the Giants, the team is in the bottom third of the league in efficiency overall. This team has shown little margin for error. It could ultimately be the difference between playing in mid January and not.
Here's what's like in my stocking:
-A Big Hat.
-A Pair of red and gold Jordans