Commanders head coach Ron Rivera was seeking to jumpstart his offense when he reinserted Carson Wentz into the starting lineup this week, but no such spark materialized in Washington's 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. The team's playoff hopes came to an end following the Green Bay Packers' 41-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings a few hours later.
Making his first start since Week 6, Wentz was given the reins in a must-win home game but mustered just 10 points in a game that got away from Washington thanks to its lack of offense. It was the Commanders' lowest point total over the last nine games, with Taylor Heinicke starting the previous nine contests.
Rivera was thinking of another quarterback change in Week 18 after the disappointing loss.
"Well, we'll see," Rivera said of the Commanders' QB situation. "We will sit down, talk with the coaches tomorrow after we watch the tape and we will go from there."
Wentz completed 16 of 28 passes for 143 yards and three interceptions for a 31.4 passer rating on the day. Two of those INTs came in the first half, one of which on his second attempt of the game, as Wentz hamstrung a valiant effort from a Commanders defense that held the Browns to just three points entering halftime.
"I thought he had his moments," Rivera said of Wentz's performance. "I thought that drive just before the end of the half was what we were looking for. Good ball control, we ate the clock. Expected to come out in the third quarter and do it and we didn't."
Wentz's 1-yard rushing touchdown before the half gave the Commanders a lead after two quarters of play, but Washington's offense plodded to start the second half, getting just two first downs in as many possessions in the third quarter while the Browns put together three consecutive TD drives into the final frame.
After Cleveland secured a two-TD lead late into the fourth quarter, Rivera admitted after the loss that he had considered putting Heinicke into the game, but the game script called for Wentz's throwing arm.
"I considered it," Rivera said. "But then they went up by 14 and I figured for sure we're going to be throwing the ball downfield."
All three INTs were bad decisions by Wentz; the first one directed right at Denzel Ward's great coverage, the second a deep underthrow to a receiver in double coverage, and the third a desperate heave into the end zone that gave Grant Delpit two picks on the day. According to Browns linebacker Reggie Ragland, Wentz's throwing mechanics are what keyed Browns defenders getting those turnovers.
"We looked at a lot from the beginning [of the season] and last week," Ragland said about Wentz, via Tramel Raggs of the Washington Post. "But every system he's been in, they've played the same way with him. He has that long, kind of slow release. So you can get a good break on it and make something shake.
"If you know football, you know he [Wentz] has a slow release. And you know Heinicke gets the ball out fast. Like some of the guys I know on the team, they would've preferred Heinicke because they know he gets the ball out. You can see it on film too though. They play different with each quarterback."
Wentz's bad outing continued the story of Washington's poor offensive play down the stretch of the 2022 season. The Commanders were seemingly in the driver's seat entering Week 12 having won six of their last seven, but an 0-3-1 record since now has Washington out of the playoffs and in flux entering the final game of the season.
"I think there's been a number of things, obviously," Rivera said. "If I name them, people will make them as excuses, so I'm just going to say we have to play better."