By the sound of the crowd, Fuller could tell his error led to a D’Andre Swift touchdown.
The sequence was an encapsulation of the Commanders’ afternoon: The defense failed to make enough stops as Washington suffered a 36-27 defeat to the Detroit Lions.
The Commanders gave up 425 yards, 191of which came on the ground. As a result, Washington fell to 1-1 — unable to start 2-0 for the 11th straight season.
The loss marked a disappointing setback for Washington after its impressive Week 1 showing against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In its season debut against Jacksonville, the Commanders’ offense looked vastly improved — even with the cold stretch that led to the Jaguars taking the lead off two Carson Wentz turnovers. Wentz still ultimately threw four touchdowns. The trio of Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson appeared to be among the league’s best receiving corps.
But reading too much into Week 1 can be a dangerous proposition. And Sunday’s onslaught against the Lions showed exactly why.
In the first half, the Commanders picked up only two first downs, and that didn’t even begin to tell the whole story of how inept the offense was. Wentz was sacked four times, one of which resulted in a safety after the ball was stripped and bounced out of the end zone. The running backs combined to average less than 3 yards per carry. And Washington didn’t even cross into opposing territory until midway through the second quarter.
The Commanders’ defense, however, was even worse.
The Lions exploited breakdown after breakdown, leading to big gains like a 49-yard pass to wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown and a 50-yard run from Swift. Detroit controlled the game on the ground and quarterback Jared Goff was just accurate enough to help the Lions jump out to a 22-0 lead.
By halftime, the Lions outgained the Commanders 250 to 56.
In the second half, the offense woke up. But the same couldn’t be said for the defense.
Washington started to chip into Detroit’s lead, with Wentz finding Samuel two minutes into the third quarter. That score, a 15-yard catch, was set up by a 40-yard bomb to Dotson that helped the Commanders get into the red zone. Later, Washington even cut it to a 7-point game when Wentz hit tight end Logan Thomas up the seam for a 20-yard touchdown, followed by a gutsy two-point conversion that ended with Dotson hauling in a pass in the end zone.
But the Commanders’ defense couldn’t get the stop it needed. On the play that Swift scored, for instance, the running back actually fell down well before Fuller’s missed tackle — but he wasn’t touched. Swift got up, evaded a few tackles and sprinted his way to the end zone for a 22-yard score.
Even when the offense responded again — Gibson capped a 12-play, 83-yard drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown to make it 29-21 — the Commanders’ defense gave up another touchdown in just six plays.
The Commanders did end up scoring again on a 1-yard pass to Dotson, but kicker Joey Slye missed the extra point — keeping it a two-possession game with less than two minutes left. Washington did force a turnover on downs but had too little time to fully stage a comeback.
Wentz finished with 337 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 30 of 46 passing.
• Matthew Paras can be reached at email@example.com.
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