Washington captains rally in front of Jacksonville Jaguars in season opener

It started with the cups. At the Leaders Official Cargo Truck outside FedEx Field on Sunday, white coffee mugs with the team’s new gold “W” logo printed inside the Washington outline – condition Washington. removed When the news spread on social media.

Then there was a leaky pipe that left a hallway-level puddle at FedEx Field—and required four trash cans and yellow quarantine tape. Then another leak, this one on the second level, regularly drips over the heads of two fans in cloaks. It wasn’t raining at the time.

The signs were there: Before the era of leaders officially began, visions of the past resurfaced across the stadium, riddled with screeching and marketing mishaps. But this team is led by New quarterback Carson Wentz Prompted by wide receivers, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson unveiled a new look that transcended her name and uniform as the Jacksonville Jaguars surpassed 28-22 win over.

Washington, for the first time in a long time, actually looked pretty good — mostly. I combined an effective attack that could extend play and finish driving with a defense that showed up when it mattered most. But the leaders also showed they are far from the final product, as evidenced by the near-disastrous second half in which Wentz threw two interceptions to give up the lead before throwing two touchdown passes in the final 10 minutes to get him back.

All in all, Wentz’s regular season debut looked a lot like his training camp and pre-season: choppy throws, perfectly placed deep passes and many good reads but also some puzzling interceptions, sack and preventable throws that sailed well over the special receivers. with it. He finished 27 for 41 for 313 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in the win—which was a statement of sorts against a team that had a hand in their trade from Indianapolis in this off-season.

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“It was a great feeling,” he said of the win. “It started fast, and a rough stretch right there in the middle, but to get it all together and get it done when it finally matters, that was great. A great way to start.”

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Perhaps the most significant change year after year for Washington was the way it started: quickly. Last season, Washington went into its opening campaign in its first four games – while allowing its opponents to score touchdown points in every game. Not since 1991—eight years before Daniel Snyder bought the team—Washington has scored in his first two drives of the season.

On Sunday, the leaders not only scored twice in the first half to take a 14-3 lead at the break, but did so smartly, joking, sinking defenders, diving for catches, penetrating for a pair of sacks and making two pass deflections. in the end zone. They also converted 4 of 5 attempts down the third and held Jacksonville in a 2-for-7 show, as well as a 0-for-3 mark in the red zone trips.

FedEx Field shook when Wentz went to work, throwing a perfectly positioned ball over the outside shoulder of back Antonio Gibson on the seam path out of the backcourt. The 26-yard catch put the leaders in the Jacksonville 4-yard line, creating a three-yard landing by Samuel twice later.

Samuel celebrated with a chicken head dance and loud announcement: “I’m back.”

“Oh, I definitely said that,” he laughed after the match. “I mean that.”

Samuel, who missed most of last season with thigh and hamstring injuries, looked more like the player he’d been with the Carolina Panthers, showing off his unfettered pace and quick cuts. He finished with eight grabs for 55 yards and added four holds for 17 more.

Perhaps his signature moment was his first-half catch for 12 yards as he mocked Darius Williams so fiercely that the cornerback went down, head-on. Samuel smiled after the play but admitted he hadn’t seen a replay. Once he did, his reaction was similar to what others watch from afar: “Oh my God.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to make men fall like this,” he added. “…My health has been the most important thing going through this season. I feel like I’ve changed and everything I get is going for me – my diet and everything. I have to keep going.”

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In the off-season, Washington once again set out to reinforce its receiving corps. Getting Samuel back to full health was a priority. So, too, a player like Dotson is hired, a first-round pick that shows flashes of being a trusted playmaker.

Pairing Dotson and Samuel with Terry McLaurin, Washington provided glimpses of what her offensive could be.

“There is no such thing as too many weapons,” Samuel said. “We have guys who can put on plays all over the stadium.”

The three found the finish zone on Sunday, including Dotson twice. In Washington’s second series—a 14-game, 71-yard drive that bled into the second quarter—Wentz threw an arrow to Dotson in the middle of the end zone for a seven-yard result. Dotson executed a route the team practiced last week, causing the defender to falter just enough to separate in order to grab him near the goalpost.

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But consistency was never Washington’s forte, so it was no surprise that the leaders were unrelated in the second half, allowing Jaguar to score 19 consecutive points for a 22-14 lead. Just like those mugs in Washington state, old reminders hang around long enough to provoke horror.

“I think in this league, nothing is going to be easy, and I think we all knew that in this game,” McLaurin said. “…when we needed to put in big performances to win the match, we did.”

Despite Wentz’s mistakes and commanders’ defensive blunders—missed interventions, lapses in coverage—Washington held on in the end.

Wentz, brought in for his deep passing ability, hit a tight end for Logan Thomas to drop 27 yards and ran third and eighth with less than 10 minutes remaining. In the next play, he reached out to McLaurin on the go route for 49 yards that brought a quiet audience back to life.

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The two-point conversion failed after Wentz came under heavy pressure almost immediately, keeping Jacksonville ahead 22-20. But Washington’s defense quickly fell off the field when Darron Payne’s defense fired Jaguar’s Trevor Lawrence in third with just over seven minutes left.

The leader’s last trick was a 13-game, 90-yard catch that included another key catch by Thomas—14 yards in third and 10—and another touchdown by Dotson. Coach Ron Rivera said it was an optional game in which Wentz read correctly. After a two-point reception by JD McKissic, Washington had a 28-22 advantage with 1:46 to go.

“It was actually a reaction from a play we had ran before, and then we just threw it on our side,” Dotson said of his second touchdown. “We knew the guy was sitting—he was sitting low—and we knew if we did a double move on him I would be able to beat him over the top. Carson was giving me the chance and trusting his receivers.”

The Jaguars had plenty of time, but sophomore safety Darrick Forrest ensured it wouldn’t go very far. Starting off the safety of injured Cam Curl, Forrest forced a stumble and two break-down passes in the end zone earlier, but his best play was his last: a deep climb interception by a rushing Lawrence in the third and 11 with 1:19 remaining.

His choice was the end of a leaders’ road trip, one that featured as many notable plays as Painful Mistakes. Rivera said he had a plan for dealing with roller coaster games with Wentz in the quarterback: “Take antacids,” he said with a laugh. “We’ll ride with him.”

Perhaps Washington fans will, too. When Forrest raised his hands in celebration after his objection, the crowd cheered—perhaps with visions of a brighter future in his mind.

“It goes beyond the ‘here we go again’ mentality,” Rivera said. “When things got tough, they didn’t. They kept talking about making plays. They kept talking about getting opportunities. It has appeared. “

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