For fans tuned in the Washington Commanders' matchup against the Denver Broncos, it looked like the game had been solidified after the first quarter.
But after a forced fumble on the arms of Jamin Davis, the game switched up, and Washington was back in it, coming back for a 35-33 win over Denver. For captain and star wide receiver Terry McLaurin, it was about QB Sam Howell, who just completed his third NFL start.
Howell threw a 299-yard game and sank the ball into the right hands at the correct times. His timely and long passes gave McLaurin a chance to outrun the corner and safety he'd been challenged by and make it into the endzone for a pass right above his head. McLaurin's well-known catching skills were seen in action, catching the 30-yard pass and landing both feet on the ground despite being guarded, giving Washington their much-needed first touchdown of the evening.
"He and I have had that connection in practice where we've connected down the field on multiple occasions, and it just seems like we kind of have a feel of where each other is going to be," McLaurin said. "And we talked about it in practice and film, depending on the look that we got."
Quality practice time and an impeccable passing connection between Howell and McLaurin give the franchise a much-needed WR and QB duo to put points on the board and help the offense rank seventh in points per game.
It wasn't always perfect for the Commanders. After moving the ball well on their first two drives, they briefly ran out of steam with zero net yards on their third and fourth combined. The unit did rediscover itself after the defense forced a fumble in the second quarter, and while it worked out for them on Sunday, McLaurin says it can't always be the case.
"We got to continue this momentum and continue to fix our mistakes," McLaurin said. "But to come out here in a tough environment against a really good team and defense to find a way to win. That's what EB's [Eric Bieniemy] talking about. Drag you're a-- across the finish line. So, that was one of those games, and I think that's something we can definitely learn from and build off of."
Bieniemy, who has made his debut as Washington's offensive coordinator this year, has shown his ability to rally together the different offensive position groups and put them in better position to win matchups. These moves left the Broncos a few critical steps behind, allowing Washington to find their way into the end zone.
"I've been wanting to play down the field for a while, and I just wanted to stay patient; I knew we were gonna get the look," said McLaurin. "And to be honest, it was actually a different look than we kind of anticipated in practice, but I trusted that me and Sam were going to connect on that play. And you know, I just wanted to keep my route thin over the top. I trust my speed to beat the outside corner and the safety. And Sam threw an unbelievable ball, just high enough for me to go up and high point it."
And with these communications and Howell's improvements on timely releases, the offense is building up their points, especially considering where they've landed in past years.
"Honestly I just want to let him know how big of a play that was and I hope that continues to build his confidence," McLaurin said."
The offense proved just how dangerous they can be and has proved their ability to comeback from a game they're counted out to win. And while it's good to come back from 18 points, being the first to put points on the board will be necessary for the team when they take on higher ranked teams.
Yet still, Washington's win marks the first time since 2001 that the Commanders have beat the Broncos in Denver- a 22-year-long stint ended by the hands of Washington's offense and relentless defense.
Jamin Davis's forced fumble set the tone for Washington's change in pace- but at the end of the day, it takes the whole team coming together for this chance. And McLaurin says this is part of the beauty of the game.
"That's why this is the greatest team game, I think, in sports," McLaurin said. "Because it takes both sides of the football, including special teams, to be successful."
A morning roundup of content from the Washington Commanders on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.
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Check Out What's On Commanders.com:
- 'You need somebody like that': Brian Robinson is beginning to show his potential
- Commanders on the rise in Week 3 power rankings
- Game Balls | Three standouts from Washington's thrilling Week 2 win
- Instant Analysis | Washington overcomes 18-deficit to take down Broncos
- Commanders' O-line looks to build, improve upon Week 1 performance
- Practice notes | Montez Sweat 'dialed in' after strong performance in season opener
- Washington's defense had one of NFL's best performances in Week 1
- Week 1’s ‘Welcome Home’ theme resonates with fans of all backgrounds
- Commanders aspire for improvement after mistakes in Week 1 win
- Game Balls | Three standouts from Washington's win over Arizona
- Commanders-Cardinals Stats & Snaps
- Instant Analysis | Defense lifts Commanders to 20-16 win over Cardinals
- Five takeaways from Washington's Week 1 win over the Cardinals