Washington showed its talent and grit in a hard-fought victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars to open the season. Here are some numbers to know from the first win of the Commanders era:
Third down defense has been a sensitive subject for Washington in the last year or so. The team finished last season 31st in the category with a conversion rate of 48.5%. When the Commanders defense was showing some of those 2021 season bad habits in the preseason, Jack Del Rio was clear about his displeasure and the fact that bettering their efforts in this area would be a big focus for the unit. That talk seemed to be translating as the team wrapped up its preseason, and Washington allowed the Ravens to convert on just 1-of-8 of its third-down opportunities.
And while preseason performances must always be taken with a grain of salt, the stat was perhaps a sign of good things to come in considering Washington's third down defense against the Jaguars. The Commanders allowed the visitors to convert on just three out of 12 of its third-down attempts, which was the sixth-best performance in Week 1.
Third-and-long in particular was a bright spot for the home team's defense. On the Jaguars' second drive, Jonathan Allen brought down Trevor Lawrence for a nine-yard loss, marking his and the team's first sack of the season. Darrick Forrest came up big in the final seconds of the first half to bat down a pass intended for Zay Jones on third-and-19. It is a long season, but the third down performance is a good sign for things to come.
Antonio Gibson had a few rough patches during training camp, but he remained confident in his abilities, proclaiming ahead of Washington's Week 1 matchup that he still thinks he is one of the better backs in the league.
Gibson was eager to show his talent, and on Sunday, he did just that. Ron Rivera hinted that Gibson would be seeing a lot of the ball against Jacksonville in a pregame press conference, and the head coach was not lying. Gibson's 65 yards in the first half was already good for the third best receiving day of his career. He was involved in Washington's offense on the ground as well, handling 56% of the Commanders' rushing attempts.
He finished the game with 21 touches (14 carries, seven reception) for 130 yards. It was the 10th game in his career in which he had amassed 100-plus yards. Rivera was pleased with the third-year back, and it seems Gibson could be seeing a lot of snaps in the coming weeks.
"He is a young man that when you give him the ball in space, he's electric and such a dynamic football player," Rivera said.
Carson Wentz got the Commanders off to a flying start against Jacksonville, passing for two touchdowns in the team's first two drives of the game. It was the first time since 1991 that the team has scored a touchdown on back-to-back drives to open a season.
After a dip in the second half, that franchise-record setting energy rose again towards the end of the contest with two of the most exciting plays of the game. With Washington down 22-14, Wentz capped off a four-play, 78-yard drive with a 49-yard pass to Terry McLaurin. In the ensuing drive and Washington's final possession of the game, the signal caller sealed a 90-yard, 13-play drive for a 24-yard touchdown. With that score, Wentz became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for four touchdowns in his first game with the team, per Elias Sports.
"The guy played his butt off and did a lot of good things," Coach Rivera said about Wentz after the game. "Really happy for him and really excited for him."
History-making performance in his very first game? I think more than just Rivera can claim they're happy and excited for what's ahead with Wentz under center.