2023 did not start off as the Washington Commanders might have hoped, as they fell to the Cleveland Browns, 24-10, at FedExField on New Year's Day. It was a must-win game for the Burgundy & Gold, who are now officially eliminated with yesterday's defeat and last night's Packers win. Here are three numbers to know from Washington's Week 17 loss:
In many of the Commanders' previous games this season, the number of yards the defense gave up would be listed as a positive because of how the unit has been so good at containing opposing offenses. Yesterday, though, was an off day all around for Washington.
On defense, a crucial part of that undoubtedly had to do with injuries. Two of Washington's best defensive players, Kamren Curl (right ankle) and Benjamin St-Juste (right ankle), were both inactive yesterday.
Concern about their absence grew as the game wore on, and the Browns found ways to exploit the areas the starting safety and cornerback would typically be in charge of. A couple of completely missed tackles, such as the one that allowed Amari Cooper to score a 46-yard touchdown, were a lowlight for Washington.
In the second half of the game, the visitors extended their lead with three touchdowns, all on passes of over 12 yards, and in just that half alone the Commanders gave up 220 yards.
Deshaun Watson's run game was not the biggest storyline in the Browns' success yesterday; thirty-one rushing yards is no jaw-dropping total. However, when the signal caller was able to find gaps on the ground, it proved costly for the Commanders.
His five-yard scramble on second-and-10 in the third quarter was immediately proceeded by 46-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. On Cleveland's final touchdown drive, Watson ran for 21 yards. On a few different occasions, he was managed to shrug off defenders who seemed to have brought him down in order to keep plays alive.
The loss of Jonathan Allen in the second quarter seemed to have bolster Watson coming out of the locker room. All 31 of his rushing yards came in the second half.
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders as they play their Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns. (Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
While the defense did not have its best outing, it was also responsible for some of the Burgundy & Gold positives on the day. Defensive tackle Daron Payne did not miss a beat coming out against the Browns and continued to show why he has been one of the Commanders' most valuable players this season.
Payne finished the game with two sacks, both in the first quarter. With less than two minutes off the clock and on Cleveland's opening drive of the afternoon, Payne brought down Watson for a loss of eight yards. Then, towards the quarter's end, he sacked the quarterback and third-and-6 which forced the Browns to settle for a field goal.
Those two plays gave Payne 11.5 sacks on the season, which saw him tie two-time Super Bowl champion David Butz for the most sacks by an interior defensive lineman in a single season in franchise history.