2. First quarter (6:22) 1st AND 10 from the Detroit 43
Washington’s offense stalled again and the special teams very nearly gave up a big return on the punt. Christian Holmes and Cam Sims allowed Kalif Raymond to split them and only a desperate tackle by Jeremy Reaves prevented a huge return (this would be a recurring problem).
It didn’t matter, because on the next play, D’Andre Swift, running behind a makeshift, injury-depleted line, abused Washington’s defense for a 50-yard run.
Jonathan Allen was clearly diminished in this game. He was not on the field as often as usual, and when he was, he was rarely the dominant interior presence we have come to expect.
But on this play, as on so many big runs against the Washington Commanders defense over the past two years, it was on the linebackers.
Swift ran right, and the line held up. But Cole Holcomb, who is being asked to play some sort of hybrid middle linebacker in a defensive scheme that seems in designed to put players in positions to fail, overran the play. Holcomb is overrunning plays on a regular basis these days. He had one of the worst 10-tackle games I have ever seen on Sunday, because most of those tackles came with him chasing down the play from behind.
I’ll say this again, and then I’ll stop (for at least five minutes.) Holcomb is a very good strongside linebacker who is being ruined by this coaching staff asking him to essentially become a super-do-everything linebacker. He cannot do that.
Case in point, his overrun on this play would not have been so egregious if Washington actually had another outside linebacker watching the backside. They do not. They have not had one since Jon Bostic’s injury a year ago. They have never addressed this problem.
On Swift’s run, rookie Percy Butler was essentially playing the role of weakside linebacker. He was obliterated by guard Dan Skipper. Skipper is a below-average fill-in. But if you let him block a defensive back – especially a rookie who was largely expected to be a special teamer this year – he’s just fine.
So Holcomb overran the gap. Butler was taken out. And once again, Darrick Forrest is left chasing after a free runner fifty years downfield. Once again, the defense stiffened near the goal line and held Detroit scoreless. But the field position proved key, as Washington would surrender a safety on the next series, and the first half rout was on.