Commanders lackluster third downs
Here is something we do know. The Washington Commanders are terrible on third downs. On both sides of the ball.
It isn’t simply that they allowed the Los Angeles Rams to convert 56 percent on the day while only managing to convert 21% themselves. That in and of itself loses games. It loses games unless you can produce big plays, something the Commanders have been incapable of all season. They just let the other team produce them.
Just consider the first two third-down plays of the game. They are a microcosm of the entire season.
Washington’s first play was a nice shovel pass to Curtis Samuel. They had an incompletion on second down, but still had a very makeable third and four to get the game off on the right foot.
The Rams blitzed six. The offensive line did a decent job of picking it up. At least there were no free runners. But there was pressure from all sides.
The defensive ends were converging on Sam Howell. As usual, the middle of the protection was collapsing, so he had nowhere to step. It forced a fast throw on a little out to Samuel. The wideout was blanketed and the pass was incomplete. Even if he had caught it, he would have been stopped short because it was just a yard downfield.
Now look at what the Rams' offense did on their first third down. After a false start penalty set them back, they were facing a third and nine. Washington did not blitz.
Matthew Stafford had no pressure and a clean pocket. The Commanders' secondary played a zone - something they have not been good at all year. Hence DeMarcus Robinson ran a curl in between a linebacker and safety for an easy 21 yards and a first down.
The pattern would continue all game.