Wentz, Commanders, overcome adversity to defeat Jaguars

The past three years have been full of ups and downs for Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz, and Sunday was the same. 

In the first half, Wentz, who was starting for his third team and three seasons, was solid as he threw two touchdown passes and the Commanders led the Jaguars 14-3 at halftime. But, in the fourth quarter, with the Commanders leading 14-12, things got a little crazy. Wentz threw two interceptions on consecutive drives, and the Jaguars took a 22-14 lead.

However, against his former coach Doug Pederson, Wentz bounced back and led Washington on two scoring drives, including a 49-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin and a 24-yard touchdown connection with rookie Jahan Dotson as Washington defeated the Jaguars 28-22 in the season-opener at FedEx Field.

Wentz completed 27-of-41 passes for 313 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, and he became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw four-plus touchdowns in his first game with the organization.

After the win, Wentz discussed the bad stretch in the fourth quarter.

“It was an ugly stretch, obviously,” he said. “Any time you get back-to-back, turnovers. That’s never fun. First one I threw, the guy made a good play, but that was a bad decision. The second one made a play came outta nowhere. Tough break, ideally just dirt that one, but yeah, it’s a tough stretch there to bounce back from, but guys did a good job. Everybody was rallying around each other, and obviously, we got it done.”

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera added on Wentz: “Well, first off(interception), he comes to the sideline after the second one and kind of beat the ground a little bit. But we both looked at each other, and I said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have to win this.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I will.’ And just walked away. He said it so confidently, and that was good to see..  So I think because of who he is and because of his ability to be able to brush things off, I think that’s a pretty strong person.”

Despite the picks, Wentz stayed confident in himself and the team.

“I got nothing but confidence in them, and I know they look at me, and they have nothing but confidence in me,” Wentz said. “And so when you feel that, obviously it’s a tough feeling, but at the same time, it’s who else is gonna be if it’s time for us to step up and, and get it done. Like I said, we rallied together, and they picked me up. I picked them up. It was huge for us to come out and do that the way we did that.”

Clearly, Wentz is going to have to clean up the interceptions. The two picks were unacceptable, but most importantly, he overcame them, and Washington got the win.

Notes: 

-Wentz was the first Washington quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards and four touchdowns
in a single game since Kirk Cousins did so on December 26, 2015 against the Philadelphia
Eagles.

-Wentz is the first Washington quarterback to throw for four-plus touchdowns in a Week 1
contest since Billy Kilmer did so in 1975. The only other Washington quarterback to accomplish
the feat was Sonny Jurgensen in 1968.

Commanders’ Rivera on Robinson shooting: ‘I’ve gotten several phone calls as a head coach, but this one was one of the harder ones’

Washington Commanders RB Brian Robinson Jr. was a victim of a robbing or carjacking in Washington D.C. on Sunday. Robinson was shot multiple times in the robbery and suffered what the team called non-life-threatening injuries. According to the Commanders official Twitter page, Robinson underwent surgery and is currently in a hospital. 

According to ESPN, one bullet hit his glute, and another struck him in a lower leg.

Very unfortunate situation for the rookie running back; at this point, the team is unsure when Robinson will return. However, his head coach Ron Rivera, says Robinson was very fortunate things were not worse.

“I can’t get into the specifics of it other than just say he’s doing well,” Rivera said on Monday. “We had an opportunity to visit with him last night, which was really a relief and kind of cool because he was in a really good place. The doctors were very positive with him, and he was very positive as well. We’re very fortunate. He’s very fortunate, and it’s a very unfortunate situation, but he’s doing well. It’ll be a matter of time before he is back out here. There is no timeline, but as I said, everything’s was very positive.”

No coach likes to get the phone call that one of their players was a victim of a shooting, and Rivera discussed his reaction when he received the call about Robinson.

“It was hard,” Rivera said. “I’ve gotten several phone calls as a head coach, unfortunately, but this one was one of the harder ones. First of all, because he’s a heck of a young man, he really is more than just a football player. He is really a heck of a young man. It kind of blindsided me a little bit…

“I got the phone call, I think, somewhere around six o’clock. I think it was. I’d actually popped into coach (Randy) Jordan’s office, and irony of all ironies, we were actually watching some Brian Robinson tape. When it hit us, I told coach Jordan right away, and he took it really hard initially. He just says is he okay? And I said, well, for the most part, it sounds like it. But we weren’t sure. I went over to (Commanders GM)Martin’s (Mayhew) office, and we had a conversation. We got our head of security on Mike Jacob, who was terrific with the whole situation.”

According to Rivera, a contingent of people went to the hospital to support Robinson, including Commanders owner Dan Snyder. 

Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz says a situation like Robinson’s shooting is much bigger than football.

You know, you hear that news, and it’s like, okay, this isn’t even football anymore,” Wentz said. “You know, someone was shot, and this is a real-life, off-the-field thing that someone’s going through. We’re fortunate with how he’s doing, and again, that’s all what I’ve been hearing, but things could have obviously been a lot worse. Yes, it is very real life. It takes you away from football real quick and say these are real-life issues that we all that we’re all going through and we’re not immune to it.”

Commanders’ Rivera on Wentz’s debut: ‘I thought he threw the ball well’

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz made his preseason debut, and Washington made their debut as the Commanders Saturday against the Carolina Panthers.

Wentz, who played three series, led the Commanders on a touchdown scoring drive and finished the day 10/13 for 74 yards. Ultimately, the Panthers would defeat Washington 23-21 at FedEx Field. 

It was a solid day for Wentz, and for him, getting out of the field with his new team was exciting.

“Yeah, it was fun,” he said. “It was fun, no doubt. I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve played in a preseason game, so that was good to just get my feet wet, as well kind of get the first time out there jitters out of the way. Whatever you want to call them. I think that was important, and we’ll be ready once week one rolls around here.”

At this point, Wentz feels he’s settling in with the new offense.

“Absolutely, I think it did, and I think everyone is just settling in,” Wentz said. “That third drive just settling in, it’s just football. We’ve been doing this our whole lives, and again it was preseason, kind of good for us to get our feet wet, but I thought that third drive was good for us to settle in and feel good about that.”

On his third and final series, Wentz led the Commanders on a 14-play, 82-yard drive, which ended with a one-yard Brian Robinson touchdown run. On the drive, Wentz connected with five different Commanders.

“I thought it was good,” Wentz said about the scoring drive. “Just coming out and moving the ball, whether we were calling plays down the field, there’s a couple down the field that maybe I want back, but even though we were calling the plays down the field, we were finding guys underneath, and we were moving the chains. I thought that was important for us, and there’s a lot we can learn from it. I’m sure we’ll go back and watch the tape. I thought that third drive was important for us to sustain a drive and pick up some third downs.”

Overall, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera felt Wentz did his job against the Panthers.

“Well, I thought he threw the ball well,” Rivera said. “I thought he threw where he was supposed to. He threw a very catchable ball and delivered it on time. I thought he went through his progressions the way he needed to. I thought he handled the huddle well. I thought he got the calls out. And he did the things we hoped he would do.”

It was a solid day for Wentz, who reportedly has been inconsistent at camp. Fortunately for him, he has time to get better and get more comfortable in the offense.

Commanders’ Rivera on firing of Mills III: ‘Just a difference in philosophy’

The Washington Commanders fired defensive line coach Sam Mills III, head coach Ron Rivera announced on Tuesday.

Assistant defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina will take over the position.

“I made a change on the coaching staff. I relieved Sam Mills III of his duties,” Rivera said. “Just a difference in philosophy for the most part, and we’ll go from there…

“Just some observations, and to me, it was I just felt it was a change that I needed to make, feeling there was a little bit of difference in the philosophy.”

When asked what the differences in philosophy were, Rivera said, “I’m going to keep that to myself.”

Mills is the son of Hall of Famer Sam Mills Jr., who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last Saturday in Canton, Ohio. He has been with the Commanders since 2020. Mills held a few coaching positions with the Panthers since 2005 and was with Rivera when he became the team’s head coach in 2011.

The 44-year-old was named defensive line coach in Carolina in 2018 and held the job until Rivera was fired in 2019.

WFT’s Rivera: ‘What’s gonna happen to the Washington Football Team is now in our hands’

Life is good when you control your own destiny, and at this point, the Washington Football Team control their own destiny. 

After being 2-6, Washington has won four straight to move to 6-6, including Sunday’s 17-15 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. From this point on, Washington plays only division foes, which starts next Sunday at home(8-4) in the first of their two matchups against the Cowboys. 

If the season ended today, Washington would be one of three wild card teams as the sixth seed in the NFC. However, if they sweep their final five games, Washington would win the NFC East for the second consecutive season.

On Monday, Washington head coach Ron Rivera discussed controlling their own destiny.

“We’re at the part where we control it,” Rivera said. “I mean, for ourselves, for us, what’s gonna happen to, to the Washington Football Team is now in our hands. We go out and play the way we’re capable of. We give ourselves a chance, and that’s where we wanted to be. That’s one of the things we talked about when the schedule first came out because you can get to this point, and you have a chance. You have an opportunity now; you’ve gotta make the best of it.”

Washington is playing well enough to win the NFC East, but the Wild Card is probably a little more realistic for Washington, especially when you consider they play Dallas and Philly twice in the next four weeks. It’s hard to beat a team twice in a season, and it becomes even more challenging to do when you play the team twice in such a short period. 

Rivera has this team playing very well, so we’ll see how the final five weeks will go for the Washington Football Team.

WFT’s Rivera on Heincke: ‘I think the biggest things he is doing is he is starting to see things’

The Washington Football(4-6) Team got their second straight impressive win on Sunday as they defeated the Carolina Panthers on the road 27-21.

Sunday’s game was all about the return of Cam Newton as the Panthers starting quarterback and the return of former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera to Carolina.

However, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who played with the Panthers in 2018, stole the show as he completed 16-of-22 passes for 206 passing yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 141.3. He also rushed six times for 29 yards.

The game was personal for a lot of people, which Heinicke discussed post-game.

“I was only here for a year, so it didn’t mean that much, but there was a lot of players, staff, and one of our general managers came from there,” he said. “We knew it was big for them, and it was kind of personal, and to know that they were going to win with those last two kneels, that was nice.”

Last week, in a win over Tampa Bay, Heinicke was 26/32 for 256 yards. According to Rivera, Heinicke is seeing everything better.

“I think the biggest things he is doing is he is starting to see things,” he said. “He is starting to see what he needs to see. He is throwing the windows he needs to throw. We are getting healthy up front. Now, we have got a couple of nicked guys. We got to get those guys back on the football field, but I think that is all a part of it as well.”

Heinicke explained why he has played so well in the past two weeks.

“It’s a culmination of a lot of things, but me personally, I feel like I’ve played better by just going out there and having fun,” he said. “Being myself and letting the personality come out, and I think that rubs off on some of the guys. There’s guys out there fighting, and all 11 of those guys on every play are doing the right thing.

“We just have to keep the ball rolling. We have a big one on Monday against Seattle, and it’s going to be exciting.”

After losing four straight and being 2-6 heading into their bye week, Washington may have found their way, and Rivera sees a team that’s now playing together.

“Well, I think they are starting to play together,” Rivera said. “They are becoming resilient. They do the things that they need to. They rely on each other. The thing I am really pleased with is it is all starting up front on both sides of the ball. I think the offensive and defensive line is coming alive. Those guys are playing some very solid and sound football. Again, they are just doing the things they need to do to give us a chance.”

Wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who had five receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown, added about the team’s turnaround: “I just think we have put two good weeks of practice together first and foremost. I feel like our o-line and our d-line are really establishing the line of scrimmage, which is very important. I feel like we are sustaining drives offensively. Defense is creating turnovers and short field. You’re creating winning formula.”

Notes:

-Washington won back-to-back games for the first time since winning four-straight games from Nov. 22nd to December 

=Running back Antonio Gibson finished with 95 yards on 19 carries.  This marks the first time Gibson ran for 90+ yards since rushing for 115 yards on November 26 of last season.13 of last season.

Bucs’ Arians: ‘We are doing one hell of a job on Monday through Friday, but we are not showing up on Sundays’

For the second straight game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers(6-3) lose on the road, and this time against a very beatable opponent in the Washington Football Team(3-6) as the world champions fell to Washington 29-19 on Sunday at FedExField.

After the game, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was not very happy about the team’s performance following their bye week.

“That display was very reminiscent of the last one,” Arians said. “It’s baffling to me after the week of practice I watched these guys have that we could play that poorly. We played with enough passion and energy for about eight or nine minutes to win games in this league. We got to show up on Sundays. We are doing one hell of a job on Monday through Friday, but we are not showing up on Sundays.”

Tampa Bay never led in this one and trailed 13-0 in the second quarter, and Washington would take a 16-6 lead into halftime. The Buccaneers would draw closer in the third when Tom Brady connected with Cameron Brate on a six-yard touchdown reception to cut the lead to 16-13, but Washington responded with an eight-play, 71-yard drive that ended with Antonio Gibson’s one-yard touchdown run.

After the Buccaneers cut Washington’s lead to 23-19 in the fourth, Washington would go on a 19-play, 80-yard drive that took 10;29 and concluded with Gibson scoring again from one yard out to put the game away.

Washington’s 19-play, 80-yard, 10:29 fourth-quarter touchdown drive was the longest fourth-quarter drive in Washington franchise history in terms of plays since 2001. In addition, per Stathead, it was the longest fourth quarter drive in terms of time of possession
resulting in a touchdown in the NFL since 2001.

“That’s very disappointing for us,” Arians said about Washington’s game-clinching drive. “We pride ourselves on defense, and we lost too many games and given up the lead too many times in the fourth quarter.”

Ir wasn’t a good game for Tampa’s defense and wasn’t a good game for Brady, who threw two interceptions on consecutive possessions in the first quarter, which led to 10 Washington points.

It was the first time Brady has been intercepted twice in the first quarter of a game since 2012.

“It has nothing to do with his receivers; it is on him,” Arians said about Brady’s interceptions.

Brady, who threw for 220 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions, added on the loss: “We just never really played on our terms. We played from behind the whole game. They played a good game. They had a good plan.”

This was a big win for Washington as they got revenge after losing to Tampa Bay in the playoffs last season. However, Washington’s star DE Chase Young did leave in the first half with an apparent knee injury.

“We know it’s a knee, there’s some concern,” Washington head coach Ron Rivera said postgame about Young. “We’ll have him evaluated tomorrow, potentially an ACL but we’re not sure yet. Once we get the evaluation, we’ll know for sure.”

Regarding the Buccaneers, they’re struggling right now.

Simply put, the Buccaneers have to start playing better if they want to turn things around.

Best of the Rest:

-Washington QB Taylor Heinicke completed 26-of-32 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown, and a 110.4 passer rating. He also rushed three times for 15 yards.

-Washington defeated Brady for the first time since September 28, 2003. It is the second time the team has ever beaten the three-time NFL MVP.

-Buccaneers DT Vita Vea was carted off in the fourth was apparent knee injury.

 

 

Washington’s Rivera on Buccaneers: ‘They get Tom(Brady), and then you see everything come together’

In 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers(6-2) went out and got maybe the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady, who ultimately led the team to their second championship in team history.

Before Brady, the Buccaneers had not made the playoffs since 2007, and the year before Brady came along, Jameis Winston did throw for over 5000 yards and 33 touchdowns. However, Winston did throw 30 interceptions, and Tampa finished 7-9.

The Buccaneers had a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but they needed a leader; they needed a player who could take them to the next level, and Brady was that guy.

During Tampa’s run to the Super Bowl, they won three times on the road, including against the Washington Football Team(2-6) at FedEx Field in the Wild Card round, and they return to FedEx Field on Sunday to battle the Washington Football Team.

On Friday, Washington head coach Ron Rivera discussed how Brady pushed the Buccaneers over the hump.

“I think you started off by saying it perfectly: Tom Brady,” Rivera said about how Brady being the difference in Tampa. “I think that really speaks for itself. You look at the year before they got Tom, and they were close. But they hadn’t gotten over the hump. They get Tom, and then you see everything come together. You get a guy with his experience, his years in the league, his six Super Bowl rings before he got his seventh, and that’s going to speak very loudly in your locker room. For any team in this league, that’s the biggest difference.”

Washington is still looking for a franchise quarterback. They started the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who got injured. Taylor Heinicke has had his moments, but it’s safe to say he’s not the guy. Washington has some talent on their roster, but they need a quarterback, and there are not many times where quarterbacks as good as Brady become available, so it will probably have to come through the draft.

 

Washington’s Rivera is hoping the team will turn things around in second half of season

The Washington Football Team head into their bye week on a four-game losing streak after falling to the Denver Broncos on the road 17-10.

During this losing streak, Washington has played some pretty good teams, including losses to the Packers, Saints, and the Chiefs. When they return after the bye week, Washington hosts the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Last season, after eight games, Washington was 2-6, but they finished the season 5-3, including a four-game winning streak, and ultimately, Washington was able to win the NFC East. 

Over the years, Ron Rivera-coached teams have done well in the second half of the season, and on Monday, Rivera explained why that is the case.

“Well, just because I’d like to believe that as we progress through the year, through the season, especially my early years as a head coach, a lot of things seem to come together,” Rivera said. “That’s what I kind of feel with last year; things kind of came to go at the right time for us. I like to believe we are on the same path. Just because I think some of the things that we’ve done have helped us to trend in the right direction. I mean, obviously offensively, we’ve outgained the last two teams we’ve played. Unfortunately, we just haven’t outscored them. And that’s important. 

“Defensively, we’ve been able to hold certain aspects of our opponents in check. We played against a couple of good running teams, and we’ve held them both under a hundred yards rushing. We played a very dynamic quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and kept him under his numbers. We still haven’t won. But the thing that you can sit there and say is it’s coming together. It’s not where we want to be, obviously, but if we continue to trend in the right way, we have a chance. So that’s really what we’re looking at.”

Health has not been on Washington’s side this season. Key players that Washington was counting on this season like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel, Brandon Scherff, Logan Thomas, and Sam Cosmi have missed time.

Rivera is hoping to get those key players back on the field at some point this season.

“We haven’t had the guys on the field that we feel could really help us to play better and hopefully win some football games,” Rivera said. “I think it’s going to be huge, being able to get Brandon [Scherff] and Sam [Cosmi] back on the football field. I think it could be very helpful having a healthy Curtis(Samuel) and Logan(Thomas) out there working together with our offensive guys. I think defensively, trying to figure out how we are, where we are. That’s a little bit more of a work in progress. I think some of the things that we’ve done lately have really shown that we have the potential to get it going again, but we just got to keep working on that. But finding who we are got a lot to do with the guys that we haven’t been able to use and play with, So I think coming out of this, we’ll see how we respond to it, especially if we do get those guys back on the football field.”

Fortunately for Washington, the schedule does get a little easier as they play the Eagles twice, Giants, but they still have games against the Cowboys(2X), Panthers, and Las Vegas. So, it should be interesting to see if Washington can turn things around in the second half of the season.

Washington’s Heinicke: ‘We just couldn’t get the ball rolling in the second half’

The Washington Football Team(2-4) battled hard against the Kansas City Chiefs(3-3) on Sunday and led at halftime, but Kansas City took over the game in the second half and would defeat Washington 31-13 at FedExField.

Washington has now lost two straight and three out of their last four.

In the first half, Washington had 200 yards of total offense and led 13-`10 at halftime, but they had only 76 yards of total offense in the second half and did not score.

WFT QB Taylor Heinicke, who completed 24-of-39 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, felt the team could not put anything together in the second half.

“We just couldn’t get the ball rolling in the second half, whether it was penalties or keeping it on the sticks, or the defense making a good play, or a dropped ball, bad throw,” Heinicke said postgame. “We just couldn’t put it together. It was frustrating. But again, we’ll get better.”

According to Washington head coach Ron Rivera, the team needed to play a complete game to beat the Chiefs.

“I think the message to the guys more so than anything else is we have to handle adversity,” Rivera said. “We have to play two halves of football. We played a good first half. We didn’t play a good enough second half to give ourselves a chance to win. We’ve got to be able to handle the mistakes, correct the mistakes and just keep going forward. The truth is it’s the sixth game; we’ve got a few more left to play, obviously. We’ve got to shake this one off, learn from it, and get ready for next week. It’s all we can do.”

All four of Washington’s losses have come against teams .500 or better, so the schedule has not been easy, which Rivera addressed after the game.

“We did lose to four good teams, but we could have also beat a couple of them,” Rivera said. “That’s the hard thing to swallow if you’re going, to be honest with it. I mean, we had a chance last week, a chance the opening game. You are what your record says you are. The only way we can get better is to practice, work at it and then go out and play better. And that's pretty much what we have left.”

The next three games for Washington won’t be easy as they have two straight road games against the Packers and Broncos, and back home against the defending world champions, the Buccaneers, so the schedule will continue to be difficult, but Washington has to find ways to overcome it.

Sean Taylor’s jersey retired:

At halftime, the Washington Football Team retired the late Sean Taylor’s number #21 jersey. The Taylor family and friends were honored on the field with a framed Sean Taylor #21 jersey. Also, the team formally commemorated the renaming of the road leading to FedExField as Sean Taylor Road in a pregame ceremony with Taylor’s family, alumni, and team representatives.

Taylor spent four season in NFL, all with Washington. Sadly, his life was cut short after being shot by intruders who tried to burglarize his home back in 2007. He was only 24 years old.

Below are highlights of Taylor’s ceremony from today: