- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 31, 2021

DENVER — There it was: A gift for Taylor Heinicke and the Washington offense. Down by one score, Washington defensive end Chase Young forced a fumble that gave his team the ball inside Denver territory with 18 seconds left. All Heinicke and Co. had to do was score a touchdown. 

As was the case most of the afternoon, the task at hand was too much to ask.

Washington fell 17-10 Sunday to the Broncos, slipping to 2-6 on the season. The Burgundy and Gold drove into enemy territory on eight of its nine drives, but could only muster one field goal and a touchdown. The offensive impotency was eerily similar to Washington’s loss last week to the Green Bay Packers. 

Heinicke finished with 270 yards and a touchdown, but threw two desperation interceptions in the end zone. The first came on a Hail Mary attempt before halftime, the other came in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-19. 

The inability to score was amplified by two blocked kicks from Chris Blewitt, the new kicker who has struggled himself since the team waived an erratic Dustin Hopkins two weeks ago. Blewitt now has three missed kicks, all of them blocks.

The Broncos improved to 4-4 and snapped a four-game losing streak. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had 213 yards on 19 of 26 passing, but it was running back Melvin Gordon’s two touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing) that ultimately made the difference. 
Washington enters its bye week on a losing note.

The similarities between the Washington and Denver franchises entering Sunday’s game were plentiful, and extended beyond the losing streaks that the teams found themselves in. 

Both were supposed to have dominant defenses, but both units have disappointed. Both have been trapped in a revolving door at quarterback — with the Broncos starting 11 quarterbacks in the years since Peyton Manning retired in 2016 to Washington’s 10 in that same span. And as they’ve been unable to solve arguably the most important position in sports, their respective fanbases have grown more and more disinterested.

Once the contest actually started, the similarities continued. 

Both teams committed plenty of sloppy mistakes — leading to an ugly first half of football.

For Washington, the problems were familiar. The Burgundy and Gold simply couldn’t capitalize on promising drives, with Heinicke and Co. failing to score touchdowns despite being able to move the ball. 

On Washington’s first drive, for instance, the offense got all the way to Denver’s 19 before Heinicke threw an incomplete pass intended for tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on fourth and one.  The call had Heinicke rolling out of the pocket, with offensive coordinator Scott Turner eschewing the success the team had had on the ground to that point.

Washington got into Denver territory four times in the first half — only to produce three points.

Washington was able to control time of possession, though ultimately had just a made 52-yard field goal to show for it. 

Washington had problems on the defensive end too.

Even when the unit succeeded — forcing a punt on the opponent’s opening drive for the first time this season — mistakes overshadowed positives.

On that opening drive stop, safety Bobby McCain dropped a sure-interception, as Bridgewater fired a pass right to him around midfield.
And the Broncos scored on chunk plays.

Bridgewater lead a seven-play, 75-yard drive in the first half that featured four plays of at least 10 yards — including a short flip to Gordon in the flat that saw the running back race past linebacker Khaleke Hudson for the 15-yard score and a 10-3 edge.

If it was Washington’s incompetence that stood out in the first half, the Broncos gave Washington plenty of opportunities to get back into the game over the next two quarters. A dismal Denver offense was forced to punt twice in the third quarter after gaining only 27 yards.

Washington finally took advantage: With 44 seconds left in the third, Heinicke stepped up in the pocket hit wide receiver DeAndre Carter for a 20-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10. Carter had gotten leverage over cornerback Bryce Callahan on the fade route, and Heinicke threw a perfectly placed ball. 

Denver even gave Washington another prime opportunity when kicker Brandon McManus missed a 53-yarder wide right. But after marching down the field, Washington’s drive fizzled out — and Blewitt had his second blocked kick of the game on a 47-yard attempt. 

Seizing on the momentum, the Broncos re-took the lead on a seven-yard rushing touchdown from Gordon to cap an eight-play, 63-yard series. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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