By Adam Aniba
Heading into Washington's Week 1 matchup vs Arizona, it was believed that the Commanders new look offense would be the primary storyline postgame. The D-line minus Chase Young would be the teams saving grace instead.
Sam Howell spoke with Fox NFL Sideline Reporter Kristina Pink post game and had the following to say about the win.
"Our defense played really well, you know our defense won this game for us."
Heading into the 3rd quarter Washington found themselves down 13-10 without any kind of rhythm. In the first half, Washington committed three turnovers with two fumbles (1 fumble recovered for a TD) and 1 interception.
The offense clearly has issues to address after the offensive line surrendered 6 sacks, but the defense certainly got into a zone in a 2nd half. One particular series featured a tackle for a loss, a sack and a strip sack in three consecutive plays.
The Crimson Tide duo made their presence known. Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen registered 3 tackles 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss and 3 QB hits. As for Daron Payne, the 2022 team sack leader recorded 2 tackles in addition to 2 tackles for a loss.
Montez Sweat was the star of the game though, recording 5 total tackles (4 solo), 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 tackles for a loss and 1 QB hit. In fact, Sweat is the 1st Washington player since 2014 to record 1.5 sacks and 2 or more forced fumbles in a single game.
Sweat has always been viewed as a player on the cusp of potential greatness, but always just an arms length away from multiple sack performances/strip sacks. Similar to his teammates Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, Sweat got out to a fast start during his contract year.
With all the talk about Washington not extending the 5th year option for Young and his inactive status vs Arizona, Sweat seems to be the early favorite to get a contract extension of the duo and potentially help the Commanders be one of the league's top defenses.
Fans will have to exercise patience with the offense and new OC Eric Bieniemy, but their opportunistic defense is clearly the identity heading into Week 2 vs Denver.
Washington ranked 28th and 29th through the last two seasons and let multiple potential interceptions slip through their fingers against the Cardinals.
Starting the year with two fumble recoveries was key to their first win and inevitably keeping them competitive in the talented NFC East.