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Instant Analysis | McLaurin delivers clutch play to help Commanders claim 17-16 win


It seems like an obvious decision to target Terry McLaurin with the game on the line, but ironically enough, he was supposed to be a decoy on what ended up being the biggest play of the evening for the Washington Commanders.

Based on the coverage that Washington got from the Indianapolis Colts with less than a minute left, the play was designed to provide an opportunity for another receiver. But, the player was not as open as Taylor Heinicke would have liked, so the quarterback stood firm in the pocket and looked for another option.

That is when Heinicke saw McLaurin and decided why not give their best playmaker another shot? Once again, McLaurin showed why it is a good decision to trust him.

McLaurin, who finished the game with six receptions for 113 yards, wrestled the ball away from Stephon Gilmore to put Washington at the Colts' 1-yard line. One play later, Heinicke dove into the end zone to give the Commanders the eventual 17-16 win.

Washington (4-4) has won three in a row, and if there is any common trait among the victories, it is that none of them have been pretty. That was the case against the Colts, as Washington struggled to build any consistency for most of the contest. That was most apparent on third down, as the offense finished 2-of-12 on their conversion attempts.

For the players, however, all that matters is that they provided the production when they needed it most, and that is exactly what they did on the final two drives, down nine points after a Heinicke interception. Nearly half of their 362 total yards for the evening came on the final two drives, and both ended with points on the board.

While the offense struggled, the defense was doing all it could to keep Washington in the game. The Colts drove the ball into the red zone two times before the fourth quarter, and on both occasions, Washington was bailed out by fumbles recovered by the defense.

And yet Washington could not do much with the extra opportunities. It gained just 32 yards on its first four drives of the second half combined, and most of that came on one drive that sputtered out at midfield in the third quarter.

After Indianapolis got the board first with a 46-yard field goal, Washington responded with one of its most consistent offensive showing of the entire game. It was a six-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by a 42-yard catch-and-run by McLaurin. After getting down to the Colts' 9-yard line, Heinicke found a wide-open Antonio Gibson for the score.

From that point, Washington did little to build on its lead, while Indianapolis slowly began to gain steam on offense. Had it not been for the effort from the defense, things could have been much more dire. Jonathan Allen brought down Sam Ehlinger at the Commanders' 23-yard line for a sack-fumble that was recovered by Daron Payne. And later in the second half, Darrick Forrest popped the ball free from Jonathan Taylor's grasp, and it was recovered by Casey Toohill.

Still, Indianapolis and Ehlinger continued to find ways to get downfield, and it finally led to results. Two field goals gave the Colts the lead, and on the very next Commanders drive, Heinicke tossed an interception to Shaquille Leonard that led to a Nyheim Hines rushing touchdown four plays later.

Take a look at the top photos from the Washington Commanders' Week 8 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

It seemed like the game was essentially over at that point, but that's when Washington's offense started to show some life.

Washington followed up the Colts' touchdown by marching 12 plays downfield, highlighted by an 18-yard catch by Curtis Samuel on a fourth-and-6. Washington got to the Colts' 10-yard line before tacking on a 28-yard field goal to make the score 16-10.

The defense came up clutch again on the following drive with a three-and-out after it was deemed that Ehlinger's run was half a yard short of converting for a first down. It led to Washington getting the ball at its own 11-yard line, and with 41 ticks on the clock, McLaurin provided his late-game heroics that set up the Heinicke touchdown.

Washington was on the brink of disaster just three weeks ago. Now, the team is back at .500 with plenty left to play for. The next matchup will be at home against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 6 with a 1 p.m. kickoff.

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