Just Imagine If The HC Had Paid Attention Enough To Challenge Play


A week ago I wrote something saying the Washington Commanders needed to make some changes sooner than later lest they end up losing all the good will they were receiving with new ownership. The team was listless, unfocused and at times didn’t seem to care.

Of course the organization did nothing, apparently saying to fans “you ain’t going anywhere.”

But they did look much more inspired against the Philadelphia Eagles today, starting out like a house on fire. They looked focused on defense, Sam Howell was seeing the field and throwing strikes on offense, and those two factors helped the team jump to a 14-3 lead.

The inspired plays conjured up images among the old faithful of the glory days when the then-named Redskins came out on the field, imposed their will on the Eagles and punched them in the mouth. For many, this was looking like a fun day.

The lead would still be 17-10 in the third quarter, but then a fourth-and-4 pass by the Eagles from Jalen Hurts to DeVonvta Smith gained 17 yards for a first down at the Washington 25. A few plays later, Hurts would hit AJ Brown for a touchdown to tie the score at 17, and therein would be the kind of play that would summarize all of my issues with the 2023 Washington Commanders.

I’m sitting at my home watching on a television 50 miles from where Hurts threw the pass to Smith, and I can clearly see the ball hit the ground. I’m a 67-year-old man with limited vision and I still saw brown leather touching green grass and no two human arms are wrapped around it. It clearly was an incomplete pass.

The entire Philadelphia team was much closer to the play and even they knew it. They quickly signalled each other to step on the gas and get going faster than employees after an announcement about free donuts in the breakroom, because they KNOW if anybody watches a replay, the play would be overturned, Philadelphia would forfeit the ball on downs and Washington would be putting its offense back on the field.

The Eagles do this, and as television then shows the replay so all can see, the ball was clearly dropped.

The only thing that could have stopped this would have been an alert and focused coach throwing the replay flag, which Ron Rivera did not do. This immediately made me wonder why if I could see it on television, and the Eagles could see it because they were running like the mask of Zorro to get another play off, why couldn’t the head coach of the Washington Commanders see it?

It was a such a critical mistake, because after a series of unfortunate incidents in the fourth quarter, the Commanders went from leading the game and being firmly in command to trailing by two touchdowns. Howell approached the final minutes with an attitude of “it’s not over until it’s over” and ended up throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder with 68 seconds left in the game.

Imagine, if you will, a world where Rivera was paying attention and did challenge that early call. The score would be 31-30 instead of 38-30, and options would have included going for 2 at home to win the game, or kick an extra point and hope for a chance at a victory in overtime.

But those options did not exist. Which has greatly annoyed me about this season’s edition of the Commanders.

I guess the good news is I am upset about the game, as it means I care. In the previous years of the prior regime, I got to the point of really not caring. I turned on the TV, glanced at the game occasionally, then did other things while the announcers became background noise.

New ownership and the promise of a team legitimately caring about the fanbase and trying to put a winner on the field has bought me back. Today’s game had me walking up and down the hallways telling my wife of mistakes the team had made despite her being clear she had no interest in details. I found myself in the Halloween candy often, drowning my frustrations in the magic elixir of Kit Kats and Reese Cups. My dog glanced up at me frequently just to make sure I understood she had nothing to do with the loss, and that if they let dogs be head coaches, she’d have challenged the play.

But there’s an expiration on that emotion of all us fans who are temporarily coming back to the team. As the game ended, Philly fans were so loud during postgame interviews that you’d think the Eagles were playing a home game at Washington’s Stadium. After the game, the same tired cliches of we’re going in the right direction and we all have to be patient did little to inspire anyone.

Nothing, it seems is changing. The team is 3-5 and echos of Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry singing “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” are running through my head.

So I’ll repeat what I said last Sunday: Commanders, changing ownership got me to care.

But if you keep having games where your head coach doesn’t care enough to pay close attention to what’s going on in a really tight game where several players are having incredible games and the team has a chance to win, I really have to ask:

Why should I?    


  1. Darn.
    I’ve always thought highly of Ron Rivera wishing he were back with our Panthers where we have even worse problems than the Commanders. You’d imagine his staff would have been screaming to drop the challenge flag. Strange.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here