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Hail or Fail: Defense feasts, Logan Thomas shines in win over Texans

Jonathan Allen sacks Davis Mills on Sunday. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

A look at the good (Hail!) and bad (Fail!) from the Washington Commanders’ 23-10 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Hail: Suffocating defense

The Commanders’ defense dominated from the start, with cornerback Kendall Fuller returning a Davis Mills interception for a touchdown on Houston’s second play from scrimmage and Washington limiting the Texans to a season-low 148 total yards. Yes, Houston is terrible, but Lovie Smith’s squad had averaged 345 yards of offense over its previous two games and eclipsed 400 yards — something Washington has yet to do this season — in a game last month. The Commanders finished with five sacks and two takeaways, and limited the Texans to two conversions on 13 third-down opportunities. The last time Washington held an opponent to fewer than 150 total yards was in a 25-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.

Fail: Body-slamming defense

Washington defensive tackle John Ridgeway was an Illinois state heavyweight wrestling champion in high school and dipped into his old bag of takedown moves Sunday. The rookie was penalized for unnecessary roughness for his WWE-style suplex tackle of Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce in the third quarter.

“It’s the NFL, not the WWE, so let’s make sure we keep in the confines of the NFL,” Pierce, who was limited to eight yard on 10 carries, said with a smile when asked about Ridgeway’s tackle after the game.

Commanders' defense is dancing, Double Dutch-ing and dominating

Hail: Curtis Samuel

Samuel had only one catch, but he made his presence felt on Washington’s first scoring drive with a pair of runs for 18 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown. In the process, he joined Jerry Rice, Tyreek Hill and Eric Metcalf as the only players in the Super Bowl era with at least 600 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns, 2,500 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns in his career. That’s decent company. Samuel, who has played every game this season after being limited to five games last year because of a groin injury, has 48 catches for 493 yards and three receiving touchdowns. He’s also averaging more than six yards a carry on 24 rushing attempts.

Fail: Houston’s offense

The Texans have had worse first halves in their 21-year history, including in 2015 when they fell behind the Miami Dolphins 41-0 after two quarters, but their first 30 minutes against the Commanders marked a new franchise low for offensive futility by one measure. Houston managed five total yards on 21 plays, and went three-and-out on four possessions. Only 11 teams have failed to record at least 10 yards in the first half since 2000, according to TruMedia. Remarkably, the Texans are responsible for the two most recent such performances. Last season, Mills and the Houston offense managed eight yards in the first half — and 109 yards in the game — of a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Hail: Logan Thomas

Before the game, Thomas, a former Virginia Tech quarterback, wore a University of Virginia T-shirt to honor the three Cavaliers football players who were fatally shot last Sunday in Charlottesville. The converted tight end then had his best performance of the year, finishing with five catches for 65 yards. The 6-foot-6 Thomas has some new Air Jordans coming his way from quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who said he plans to give his tight ends new kicks as a thanks for their stellar blocking. Heinicke wasn’t sacked Sunday.

The Commanders are cruising. Forget the details and just enjoy it.

Fail: Red-zone execution

Excluding the final drive of the game, when running back Antonio Gibson went down short of the goal line to burn the clock, the Commanders scored one touchdown on three trips inside the red zone. Washington, which settled for a pair of short field goals by Joey Slye, has scored touchdowns on 52 percent of its red zone opportunities, which ranks 22nd in the league.

Hail: Turnovers

After registering one takeaway in its first five games, Washington has 12 takeaways over the past six weeks, including two against the Texans. Rookie safety Darrick Forrest made an athletic interception for the second straight game by diving to grab a ball deflected by cornerback Benjamin St-Juste in the fourth quarter. “I got four lions in front of me, and I’m just sitting back there waiting,” Forrest said after the game. For only the second time this season, Washington didn’t commit a turnover, bringing its turnover differential to zero.

Fail: Washington’s shutout-less streak

At halftime, it seemed like this would be the game Washington ended its ridiculous decades-long shutout-less streak. A field goal by Houston’s Ka’imi Fairbairn early in the third quarter dashed those hopes. Washington hasn’t recorded a shutout since Sept. 30, 1991, against the Eagles, which was 503 regular season games ago. Every other NFL team has at least two shutouts since then.