Oh, what a difference a week makes.
Amidst last Saturday’s 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera benched starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke for Carson Wentz.
Naturally, a quarterback decision for the following week ensued – and Rivera decided to roll with Wentz, seeking a “spark” to the offense. Some eight days later, the Commanders were back on the gridiron for a home contest against the Cleveland Browns, firmly controlling their playoff destiny.
But as the clock hit zero, there was little spark … and few questions answered, as the Commanders (7-8-1) fell 24-10 to the Browns (7-9) before helplessly watching the Green Bay Packers defeat the Minnesota Vikings, bringing Washington’s playoff hopes to an end.
Wentz had a difficult day, going 16 of 28 (57 percent) for 143 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions – and perhaps most importantly, brought the idea of Heinicke back into the picture.
While Heinicke ultimately never saw the field, Rivera revealed that it was nearly a different story, but there was one factor that prevented the move.
“I considered it,” Rivera said. “Then, (Cleveland) went up by 14 and I figured for sure we were going to be throwing the ball downfield.”
Thus, it can be concluded that Rivera contemplated benching Wentz following Washington’s field goal drive at the start of the fourth quarter, a series in which the 30-year-old passer went four of four for 37 yards.
After allowing a touchdown drive that saw Cleveland grow its lead from seven to 14, Washington stuck with Wentz and his arm … but he was intercepted eight plays later on a deep shot to rookie receiver Jahan Dotson.
The Commanders’ final legitimate possession ended was a four-and-out turnover on downs, bringing Wentz’ disappointing day to an end. It’s particularly frustrating for Washington considering how strong the veteran signal caller looked against San Francisco, where he went 12 of 16 for 123 yards and a touchdown in just two drives.
Oh, what a difference a week makes … but what changed?
“Got to give (the Browns) credit,” Rivera began. “They did some good things; they got a little pressure on him, and we missed some opportunities.”
The Commanders return to action next week, hosting the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field … but there are several things still to be “considered,” and a lot left to play out over the next week.
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