The Washington Commanders were desperately clinging to their playoff hopes last year in Week 17 when they hosted the Philadelphia Eagles, and they were one play from keeping them alive.
Down 20-16 with 30 seconds left, Taylor Heinicke aired out a pass to John Bates, who is known more his blocking but had an 80% catch rate on 25 targets. But Bates slipped at the 4-yard line, leading to the ball being picked off by Rodney McLeod Jr. in the end zone. It was a brutal loss that dashed Washington's postseason aspirations, and it is still on Heinicke's mind.
"That last game stuck with me throughout the whole off season," Heinicke said Thursday. "Everything that we went through last year and to have a chance to go to the playoffs there, we're driving down the field, we're moving the ball and that last throw was unfortunate ...What if he caught that and scored might've made him the playoffs and who knows what would've happened?"
Now the starter for Washington once again, Heinicke will have a chance to avenge that loss in a primetime matchup against the Eagles. The challenge will be much greater this time around. Not only is the game on the road, but Philadelphia is the only undefeated team left in the NFL and considered to be one of, if not the best team in the NFL.
"It's gonna be Monday night," Heinicke said. "It's gonna be a hostile environment. It's gonna be a lot of fun, so I think the guys are excited for it."
While last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings did not end the way Washington hoped, it did show that the team can hold its own against the class of the conference. It is growth from the last matchup against the Eagles, when Jalen Hurts led his offense to 24 unanswered point in a 24-8 win over Washington.
Even then, however, there were some positives. Outside of one quarter, the defense did a solid job of handling Hurts and preventing him from breaking off explosive plays. If the unit can replicate that success, Washington has a shot of pulling off an upset. It will come down to the offense, which did not score until the fourth quarter in Week 3, to find momentum.
And Heinicke know that in order for that to happen, Washington must do a better job of sustaining drives.
"I think the biggest thing is converting third downs. That's the biggest play throughout every drive. If you can do that, you're eating up a lot more time off the clock and giving yourself a better chance to score. So, I think if we could do that, we'll be in better shape."
Here's a morning roundup of what the local and national media have to say about the Washington Commanders on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. All reports, rumors and conjecture are a reflection of the media conversation and are not endorsed or confirmed by the Washington Commanders.
The reports and deals expressed in this article have not been confirmed by Washington, nor do they reflect any insider information from anyone in the front office.
- The Washington Times' Matthew Paras writes that the Commanders' trust in Benjamin St-Juste is steadily improving.
- NBC Sports Washington's Peter Hailey gives his opinions in a player-by-player review of the Commanders' defense.
- NBC Sports Washington's Peter Hailey also gives a player-by-player review of the offense.
- The Washington Post's Sam Fortier looks into what the Commanders can do to stop the Eagles.
- NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux writes about Benjamin St-Juste showing promise against Justin Jefferson.
- The Washington Times' Matthew Paras writes about the Commanders at the halfway point of the season.
- The Washington Post's Nicki Jhabvala writes that self-inflicted wounds have stalled the Commanders' progress.
- The Washington Post's Scott Allen gives his hail or fail from last week's game against the Vikings.
- The Washington Times' Matthew Paras reflects on the Commanders' season at the midway point.
- NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux writes about the promise St-Juste showed guarding Justin Jefferson.
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