5 plays that defined where it all went wrong for the Commanders in 2023

Things could have been different...

Logan Thomas
Logan Thomas / Patrick Smith/GettyImages
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Commanders at Eagles - Week 4

  • Fourth quarter - 0:00

Do you know what I hate about the internet? Everything you put on there lasts in perpetuity. Or at least what passes for perpetuity these days.

Astute readers will be able to see that I defended Ron Rivera’s decision to eschew a two-point try at the end of regulation and play for overtime. I still think the math was correct on this. I still believe the Washington Commanders would have had a less than 50/50 chance of converting that try. But given the way the season has played out, I now have to admit that it was the wrong call.

The Commanders were coming off their first loss of the season, a crushing 37-3 blowout at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. Going on the road against the defending NFC champions seemed like a daunting task. But they got out to an early lead, and when the Philadelphia Eagles started to roll in the second half, Sam Howell led the team on two long fourth-quarter touchdown drives to stay even.

The final drive was a beauty. Sixty-four yards in 10 plays with just one timeout. Howell was sacked and threw several incompletions, but he never got rattled. He converted a fourth down. And he threw to Jahan Dotson for the score as time expired.

Maybe - just maybe - this was the start of something big. This was the best game Washington had played in a long, long time. A two-point conversion would leave them at 3-1 and in first place in the NFC East.

We all know what happened. A razor-thin call on a potential long pass to Terry McLaurin in overtime went against Washington, and the Commanders defense was helpless to stop Jalen Hurts.

They lost. But their effort should have bolstered the team. They went toe-to-toe with the league’s best. That’s not what happened. Except for the Eagles rematch, the Commanders haven't played another good game all season.

Did Rivera’s decision demoralize the team? I never used to put much stock in that kind of thing, but it’s hard to ignore how things turned out.

There were plenty of other explanations for why Washington imploded in the middle of the 2023 season. But that extra-point decision has to be on the list.