- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2022

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Efe Obada, in theory, should be able to relate to a tie better than most. The Washington Commanders defensive end speaks with a British accent, lived in London for years and is such a soccer fan that last month, he participated in an online viewing party with actor Matthew McConaughey to watch England’s World Cup match with the United States — a game that ended in a draw. 

But after New York kicker Graham Gano missed a 58-yarder at the end of overtime, Obada was ready for Sunday’s game against the Giants to continue. 

He was unaware the contest — a 20-20 tie — was over.

“Everybody started walking on the field and I was like, ‘What the [expletive]?’” Obada said. 

Obada was among the large contingent of players and coaches who were left unsatisfied after the Commanders and the Giants settled for a draw at MetLife Stadium. Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke led a remarkable rally over the final few minutes of regulation to help produce the extra period, but Washington couldn’t fully complete the storybook comeback as both offenses largely stalled out near the end. 

The Giants got into field goal range in the final seconds after quarterback Daniel Jones connected on passes of 14 and 3 yards to put the Giants at Washington’s 40. Still, Gano’s kick fell short as time expired. 

So while Washington is no better off after Sunday’s kiss-your-sister result, the silver lining is they’re not any worse either.

And, after all is said and done, a tie may be as good as a win by the end of the season.

Just look at last year. In 2021, the 9-7-1 Pittsburgh Steelers made the playoffs over the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers — all of whom finished 9-8 — in part because they salvaged a tied with the Detroit Lions in Week 10. 

Ultimately, the Commanders know the best course to make the playoffs is to simply win. They’ll still need to take care of business down the stretch — starting when they face the Giants again following their upcoming bye week.

“I addressed (the team), and I wasn’t sure how to address them,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We came up here and we expected to win, and we didn’t, we tied. It doesn’t hurt us; it doesn’t help us because these are the guys that we’re competing with right now. So next week or in two weeks we’ll have to reset and get ready to compete against them again.” 

Rivera said he was sure he’d find positives when examining the tape, and he’s right. Specifically, the Commanders’second-to-last drive of regulation was one of the team’s best of the season. Backed up to their own 10-yard line with 3:43 left, Heinicke (275 yards on 27 of 41 passing for two touchdowns) made a trio of big-time throws on an eight-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a 28-yard touchdown to rookie Jahan Dotson.

On that drive, Heinicke’s first dazzling throw came on fourth-and-4 when he evaded the oncoming rush, ran to his left and hit a streaking Curtis Samuel down the field for 20 yards. The quarterback then connected with Samuel on another 25-yard gain before eventually hitting Dotson for the score. 

Until Sunday, Heinicke’s chemistry with Dotson had been largely nonexistent. The first-round rookie had just two catches for 27 yards since returning from a hamstring injury last month. But against the Giants, Dotson caught five passes for 54 yards — including the game-tying score. 

Dotson’s touchdown also helped get Washington out of a funk that seemed to start from the moment the team took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Rather than cruise to an easy victory, the Commanders suffered a series of self-inflicted errors that included seven penalties for 56 yards, a woeful third-down percentage (3 of 14) and a Heinicke fumble that New York recovered in the red zone. 

The latter happened just after halftime, paving the way for the Giants to take a 20-13 lead.  The Giants had fought their way back into the game by relying on a solid rushing attack from Saquon Barkley (63 yards on 18 carries) and Jones — the quarterback who rushed for 71 yards on 12 attempts. 

The Giants’ defense also got to Heinicke with repeated pressure, sacking the quarterback five times.

“Obviously a tie is just a weird gray area,” Heinicke said. “You would like to be able to finish it off somehow. Maybe make the kickers go out there and try to kick 50-yard field goals, I don’t know, something, like some type of PK. I don’t know, but yeah, you know, it’s never fun to tie.”

Sunday’s contest re-emphasized Washington’s narrow margin for error. While Heinicke and Co. were able to even the score, the Commanders could have put the game away if they had cut down on a number of mistakes. 

The Commanders’ first drive, for example, would have resulted in seven points instead of three if Heinicke hit a wide-open Logan Thomas instead of sailing the pass way over the tight end’s head. Later in the second half, Washington kicker Joey Slye also missed a 52-yarder that loomed large over the final result. 

“It’s really is kind of who we are,” Rivera said. “We play close games. We play tight games. You get some breaks. You don’t get some breaks.”

In overtime, the Commanders were almost broken. Washington’s final offensive drive of the extra time was a jumbled mess as Heinicke took an eight-yard sack that backed the Commanders up to their two-yard line. Two plays later, the Commanders chose to run the ball on third-and-10 rather than throw — willing to play a battle of field position if Washington failed to get the first down. 

Tress Way’s 48-yard punt, however, went shorter than expected, giving the Giants one last opportunity. 

But Gano’s miss meant the Commanders survived — even if it didn’t feel like it to those involved. Standing at the lectern Sunday, Heinicke said he wouldn’t buy himself a new pair of Air Jordans, a tradition the quarterback started after every win.  

“No, no Jordans for a tie,” Heinicke said. “Only wins.” 

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

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