Commanders protection dominated the Texans — and had a variety of enjoyable doing it


HOUSTON — An incomplete checklist of the celebrations used on the sector or the sideline by Washington Commanders defenders Sunday: the “Double Dutch,” the “Spider-Man meme,” the “Wipe Me Down” (when tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne pretended to mud off their sneakers after a sack), the “Fusion Dance” (when security Darrick Forrest and nook Benjamin St-Juste reenacted a bit from the anime “Dragon Ball Z” after an interception) and the “Dance Circle” (when linemen gathered round a teammate after an enormous play, bouncing and holding their fingers excessive in reward).

“You understand you making performs if you get to tug ’em out,” Payne mentioned, smiling extensive, after a uncommon snug win for Washington (6-5), which walloped the woeful Houston Texans, 23-10, at NRG Stadium.

Regardless of the Texans’ ineptitude and a slight letdown within the second half, the Commanders’ defensive dominance Sunday was essential. The efficiency illustrated their skill to refocus after pulling off an enormous upset and hinted at simply how good the unit may be when the gamers work collectively. On the second play of the sport, cornerback Kendall Fuller returned an interception for a landing, and by halftime Houston had simply 5 yards. It was simply the eleventh time this century a staff did not amass 10 or extra internet yards within the first half, in accordance with statistics web site TruMedia.

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“The protection has actually come collectively,” Coach Ron Rivera mentioned. He credited coordinator Jack Del Rio, his employees and the gamers for correcting early-season struggles. “There’s some actually cool stuff that is happening proper now,” Rivera added. “This staff is beginning to develop.”

The important thing to the sport plan was run protection. Washington’s defenders mentioned they knew Houston wished to depend on rookie operating again Dameon Pierce, because it had in its greatest video games. However the Commanders have been assured they may cease him. Washington has allowed one 100-yard rusher this season — Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, the NFL’s speeding chief, managed 102 — and superior metrics counsel it is a top-five run protection.

On Sunday, the Commanders blew up run performs with coordinated rush schemes and pure physicality. The defenders set the tone early — Pierce’s first two rushes mixed for a lack of 5 yards — and delivered punishing hits. Over 16 whole rushes, the Texans’ longest achieve was 4 yards.

“[Pierce] runs onerous, so we hit him within the backfield earlier than he bought going,” defensive finish James Smith-Williams mentioned.

Within the second quarter, the deficit pressured the Texans to throw extra, and the Commanders’ defensive position teed off on quarterback Davis Mills, typically focusing on Houston’s rookie left guard, Kenyon Inexperienced. When a reporter requested Payne if he had seen certainly one of Allen’s dominating rushes towards Inexperienced, the lineman was confused.

“Which one?” Payne mentioned. “We was f—ing him up all recreation.”

Allen and Payne, who could also be one of the best inside line duo within the NFL, appeared to have appointments with one another within the backfield. They mixed for 3 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss and 5 quarterback hits. Payne additionally added a batted go. They celebrated with elaborate handshakes, and after the sport Allen mentioned these celebrations are essential as a result of it is so troublesome to make performs within the NFL that “you bought to take pleasure in each other.”

“I do not know if Payne’s going to be right here [next year],” Allen mentioned, referencing his teammate’s expiring contract. “I do not know what his state of affairs is. We’re simply making an attempt to take pleasure in each other, play off one another and simply have enjoyable. I really feel like too many instances, you get caught up in all the large stuff, however actually, [you should] simply take pleasure in being round one another. Whenever you speak to guys who aren’t within the league no extra, the most important factor that they miss is the locker room, so I am actually making an attempt to take that in.”

Payne mentioned he is making an attempt not to consider a brand new contract.

“This offseason, I used to be coaching actual onerous to get to the place I am in now,” he mentioned. “So it is solely up from now. I simply maintain making an attempt to make performs, after which on the finish of it, determine it out.”

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Within the second half, the Commanders had lapses when enjoying smooth protection. Brandin Cooks beat linebacker Jon Bostic on a brief crosser and scampered 41 yards. Fellow wideout Nico Collins racked up 22. Mills scrambled for a four-yard landing, the Texans’ just one on the day.

These have been the forms of performs that prevented Allen from suggesting the Commanders’ protection is enjoying in addition to it did on the finish of 2020.

“The very best defenses are essentially the most constant,” he mentioned. “We had a very good first half; second half was not nearly as good. We had a superb recreation towards Philadelphia, [but] towards the Vikings, we let too many drives down the sector late within the recreation, and we misplaced.”

However within the locker room Sunday, the defenders appeared to be residing within the second. Forrest and St-Juste relived the third-quarter interception, when St-Juste tipped a protracted ball and Forrest swooped in for the catch. It was the third time in two video games the 2 had mixed for a turnover — and Forrest mentioned it began with the road.

“I bought 4 lions in entrance of me, and I am simply sitting again there ready,” he mentioned. “…They’re getting after the quarterback. He is flustered, he does not have nowhere to throw it, so he is simply throwing it up, and we will get it. That is our model of soccer, and that is what we will proceed to do.”

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At one level, Smith-Williams grabbed a microphone, jumped right into a scrum of reporters and requested Payne, “Daron, what’s it like enjoying with James Smith-Williams?”

“I imply, have a look at the man,” Payne mentioned, pointing to Smith-Williams’s sun shades and fluffy white coat. “He is a cool man…swaggy man. Good.”

Sweat added that the staff had extra celebrations it wished to make use of for the large performs nonetheless to come back.

“We bought just a few within the bag we going to tug out,” he mentioned, grinning.

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