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Chargers 20, Washington 16: WFT Loses Game, Fitzpatrick

What went right, what went wrong in WFT's Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
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The Washington Football Team lost its season opener at home to the Los Angeles Chargers 20-16 on Sunday at FedEx Field. But more was lost. Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was lost for the game, and likely longer.

We've said repeatedly coming into the season, WFT's success in repeating as NFC East division champions in 2021 was predicated on "Fitzmagic" and not "Fitztragic." Sunday, it was the latter.

READ MORE: Washington Football team: 3 Losses in 1 Game

With nine minutes remaining in the first half, Washington lost Fitzpatrick to a hip injury. 

Fitzpatrick's injury prevented him from returning to the game, and the team was only able to say the hip injury is a "serious" one.  

The Return Of A Fan Favorite

That injury resulted in backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke entering the game. The same Taylor Heinicke who went toe-to-toe with eventual Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady in last season's wild-card round playoff loss, leading some to think there should have been more of a quarterback competition in training camp.

Before leaving the game, Fitzpatrick was anything but spectacular. He completed just 3 of 6 passes for 13 yards and took only one deep shot in the game. (It resulted in a 35-yard defensive pass interference penalty.)

Washington largely turned to the run game. Heinicke was 11 for 15 for 122 yards, including a touchdown toss to tight end Logan Thomas. Still a fan favorite, Heinicke heard the FedEx Field fans chanting his name after an improvised flip-pass to wide receiver Terry McLaurin in the third quarter.

Heinicke was able to perform admirably, but depending on Fitzpatrick's status, a potential quarterback controversy is not what WFT fans had in mind after Week 1. 

What Happened To The 'Elite' Washington Defense?

Washington's defensive unit is supposed to be the strength of this team, yet it struggled all afternoon against a Chargers team with a rookie head coach and second-year quarterback.

The Chargers set the pace early. Their opening drive went 75 yards for a touchdown; a drive where the Washington defense looked overmatched and confused at times. Los Angeles had five drives of at least 10 plays, and finished with a 12-minute advantage in time of possession. The Chargers had two turnovers in the red zone, including a Justin Herbert fumble that looked more like an incomplete pass, or the score might have looked much worse.

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The LA offense dominated on third-down plays, converting 14 of 19, including going 4 for 4 on a 15-play drive near the end of the game that took the final 6:43 off the clock. 

Herbert was a problem all day, completing 31 of 47 passes for 337 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

READ MORE: WATCH: Washington Scores First TD Of Season

Rookies Will Be Rookies

Rookie tackle Sam Cosmi had a first game of his career, but in all fairness, he was asked to contain three-time Pro Bowler and former defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa. Bosa had a field day opposite Cosmi, including a sack-fumble.

Rookie cornerback Benjamin St-Juste was picked on frequently by Herbert. St-Juste did make a couple of good plays on Los Angeles wideout Mike Williams, but was also in coverage on Williams when he scored a 20-yard catch on third down on the Chargers' final drive of the game.

Washington's first-round pick in this year's NFL Draft was linebacker Jamin Davis, who had a couple of tackles. Fellow rookie Camaron Cheesman, the long snapper, committed a costly holding penalty on a punt just before the Chargers' game-ending possession.

Mistake-Prone Football

Even though the Washington defense was struggling on third downs, the defense was able to play well in the red zone. Perhaps the most costly mistake came early in the final quarter after the defense handed the offense an extra possession with an interception by cornerback William Jackson III. 

On the next play, running back Antonio Gibson fumbled the ball and gave the possession right back to the Chargers. Three plays later, the Chargers scored to take the lead in the game for good. Other than the turnover, Gibson had a solid outing with 90 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Washington also had a false start penalty on guard Brandon Scherff early in the fourth quarter that turned a third and 5 into a third and 10 from the Chargers' 31 yard line. After the failed conversion, Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 51-yard attempt. 

It's Week 1, and mistakes and rust are to be expected. But when the strength of your team appears to be just another weakness, questions are raised. Not many things went right for Washington on Sunday, including questions at quarterback. 

But it's a short week for head coach Ron Rivera to figure things out before the Thursday night division matchup with the New York Giants, also coming off a loss, on Sept. 16. That game is also at FedEx Field.  

CONTINUE READING: WFT Injury News: Ryan Fitzpatrick Out