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Monday, December 19, 2022

OPINION:

On Saturday, the Washington Commanders gave away toys to children at Ghost Town Field.

Sunday night, the Commanders gave away a football game to the New York Giants at Ghost Town Field.


Merry Christmas.

The Taylor Heinicke magic slipped out of his hands like a fumble — two of them actually — in a 20-12 loss to the Giants Sunday night that pleased the thousands of New Yorkers who descended on Ghost Town Field.

The cheerleaders will tell you that Commanders fans showed up in force to support their team. They did — but then, as has become the norm for the Washington franchise, so did the fans of the visiting team.

That’s the Ghost of Christmas past, present and future (remember team President Jason Wright’s flippant comments during the preseason game against Carolina?) as long as Skipper Dan the Sailing Man owns the team. You could fill several Ghost Town Fields with the number of Commanders fans — and ex-Redskins fans — who would cheer loudly for that.

Maybe they should have played the game at Bank of America headquarters.

There remains no other story of relevance about this team outside of Skipper Dan and the possibility of the sale of the team. The rest of it is background noise, another Commanders season now possibly heading for mediocrity.

They are 7-6-1 after the loss to New York, and are still in control of their playoff hopes, in place for the final wild card spot. But in the next three weeks, the offensive line that couldn’t protect Heinicke — three sacks, eight quarterback hits — will face Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett and Micah Parsons, the three best pass rushers in the league.

Or else you could put Carson Wentz out there. Then the season turns into a memorial service.

Does Jonathan Allen have any tickets for the Browns game?

“It’s disappointing as heck,” Rivera told reporters after the game when asked about the magnitude of the loss. ”It really is. It pisses me off. We had an opportunity to win. I thought we did everything we were supposed to do, getting the ball down to the one-yard line and getting lined up. Checking to make sure we’re lined up properly and then having that taken away from us. That’s why it’s hard to comprehend like that.”

Please. You did everything you were supposed to do? Your offense scored 12 points, you turned the ball over with two fumbles and you watched as Giants running back Saquon Barkley ran through your defense like a man against boys, and you think this loss was because of bad officiating?

Your team got outplayed and you got outcoached. Any good fighter will tell you, don’t leave it in the hands of the judges. You have this vaunted defense, led by two studs in the middle in Allen and Daron Payne, and you barely laid a glove on Barkley and Daniel Jones.

That may be why you lost the opportunity to win.

You had rookie running back Brian Robinson doing his Barkley imitation on the other side — pushing the Giants defense back nearly every time he touched the ball — and he touched the ball only 12 times in the game, gaining 87 yards, two more yards than Barkley, who got the ball 18 times.

That may be why you lost the opportunity to win.

Was offensive coordinator Scott Turner in the bathroom when Robinson was running off chunks of yards — 7.4 yards per carry? His father Norv had enough sense to keep handing the ball off to Emmitt Smith.

Finally, on a fourth-and-9 play, Jones completed an 11-yard pass for the first down to Richie James on an 18-play, 97-yard drive that resulted in a Barkley three-yard touchdown run to put New York ahead 14-3 going into halftime.

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio should have been blocked from the defensive play-calling after that one.

That may be why you lost the opportunity to win.

“That’s probably the biggest disappointment right there of the defense tonight,” Rivera said. “You ask Jack about that; I think that’ll be one Jack will be disappointed in.”

Oh. Jack will be disappointed.

I praised Rivera weeks ago for the run he had the team on — winning six of seven games before the 20-20 tie with the Giants two weeks ago — and he deserved it. He appears to have managed to keep Skipper Dan disease from infecting his players. They seem to have tremendous respect for their head coach.

But after watching the Commanders play the Giants two straight games, this is clear — the Giants are tougher. Washington has a better roster of players. But New York’s roster plays at a higher level of intensity and has bought in fully to rookie coach Brian Daboll’s message of commitment, just a bit more than Rivera’s players have.

It’s going to require the Giants’ level of intensity to beat the 49ers — a Super Bowl contender at 10-4 — as Washington travels to San Francisco on a short week for Saturday’s game. Kyle Shanahan will certainly have his team at that level of intensity. 

He knows this still is all about Skipper Dan the Sailing Man, who sunk his father’s ship in Washington.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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