By Adam Aniba
Washington improved to 6-5, after defeating the Houston Texans 23-10. This is the first time HC Ron Rivera has been over .500 since arriving in Washington (first time as a team since '18), winning 5 out of their last 6 games.
The game plan was clear on defense, stop Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce. The rookie entered the game, ranked 6th in the league in rushing and was held to only 8 yards on ten rushing attempts. Del Rio's defense held the Texans to 148 net yards with only 5 yards in the first half, in addition to limiting the Texans to 2-13 on 3rd down.
Although missed tackles have plagued the defense in years past, Washington currently ranks second in the league (NYG first) with only 33 missed tackles in their last 11 games per Pro Football Reference.
The offense was unspectacular on the day, but made key plays to move the chains when needed. In saying that, once again Del Rio's defense forced timely turnovers, essentially putting the team on their back.
WIth the score tied 0-0, cornerback Kendall Fuller picked off Texans QB Davis Mills for his first career pick-6, which made the score 7-0 and set the tone for the rest of the game. Washington would not let go of the lead from that point on.
Later, after Washington had tacked on another field goal, Darrick Forrest grabbed his third interception of the season off a deflected pass from cornerback Benjamin St-Juste.
Dominance on the D-line
The defensive line tied a season high with 5 sacks, limiting Houston the signal caller to only 169 passing yards.
Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne and Montez Sweat have risen up the ranks as arguably the best defensive line trio in the NFL. Against Houston, the three combined for 5 sacks, 6 tackles for a loss and 9 QB hits.
Allen has 6.5 sacks on the season with a career high 14 tackles for a loss. Payne is tied for the team lead with Allen for sacks, it's been a career year with 6.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss, both career highs for the former Alabama lineman. Sweat is right behind the duo with 6 sacks and a career high 22 QB hits.
Allen has been consistently dominant, but Payne has really turned it up over the last 5 weeks and per The Washington Post had the following to say about his performance.
"This offseason, I was training real hard to get to the position I'm in now. So it's only up from now. I just trying to make plays."
Although the defense gave up a late 4th quarter touchdown, they set out to dictate the tempo and achieved that on defense with 5 sacks, 2 turnovers, 1 defensive TD and only 21 yds allowed on ground.
Washington will face another run heavy team in the Falcons next week. Washington's defense seems to have found their flow, particularly when it comes to stopping the run, in addition to the 6 turnovers forced during the last two games.
The return of Chase Young could also give the unit a boost, even though he'll be on a limited snap count for the season. Although Washington's offense has scored at least twenty points over the last 4 out of 5 games, the defense will need to stay the course in order for their run to continue.
Fans should feel confident that the Commanders seem to have found their identity, focusing on stout defense and a commitment to the run on offense. Washington boasts a defense that could end up the top ranked unit in football by seasons end, with playoff aspirations in their sights.
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