NFL Week 12: Jonathan Allen applies Sabanism to Commanders’ QB choice

Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen didn’t seem surprised by Commanders Coach Ron Rivera’s announcement that the NFL team would stick with Taylor Heinicke as its starting quarterback.

“Coach (Nick) Saban used to always say the team decides the starting quarterback,” said Allen, citing his former college coach. “Every time (Heinicke) comes in and plays, the team rallies around him, the offense rallies around him. You can’t really understand it; you can’t really explain it. It just is what it is.”

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Heinicke entered the starting lineup because Carson Wentz suffered a broken finger in a 12-7 loss to the Chicago Bears on Oct. 13. Wentz is ready to come off injured reserve. But even though Washington traded for Wentz in March, and the Commanders are paying him $22 million for the 2022 season, the quarterback making $1.5 million will be in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

“Winning,” Rivera said when asked to explain the decision. “That’s the truth of the matter. That’s where we are right now.”

While starting the first six games of the season, Wentz completed 144-of-232 passes for 1,489 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions for a passing-efficiency rating of 84.1

While starting the past five games, Heinicke completed 90-of-148 passes for 1,031 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions for an 81.8 passing-efficiency rating.

While Wentz has better statistics, Washington averaged 17.0 points and posted a 2-4 record in his starts. In Heinicke’s starts, the Commanders have averaged 22.4 points and gone 4-1.

Washington’s defensive stats have also been better since Heinicke entered the lineup. The Commanders yielded an average of 22.6 points per game in Wentz’s starts. The average is 17.5 in Heinicke’s starts.

Allen and fellow Alabama alumnus and Washington defensive tackle Daron Payne have surged over the past five games. Since Heinicke became the starter, each defensive tackle has three sacks. Over the previous five weeks, Allen has more tackles for loss than any other defensive lineman in the NFL with seven, and Payne has six in that span. Allen also ranks third among defensive linemen with nine quarterback hits during Weeks 7 through 11 of the 2022 season.

For the season, Allen and Payne have similar stats. Allen has 6.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits and 40 tackles in 2022. A former Shades Valley High School star, Payne has 6.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits and 41 tackles. Payne has a fumble recovery. Allen has intercepted a pass.

“I think we’re the only group right now with two defensive tackles with five-plus sacks each, so that’s a heck of a deal right now,” Rivera said. “Those guys are playing solid, sound football, and it’s a big deal.”

Allen said he thinks he and Payne are playing their best football.

“I think Daron is hitting his own stride,” Allen said, “and he’s really elevated his game to a high level and has really been able to help me play better. Seeing him dominate week in and week out all year is making me raise my game to his level. He’s played phenomenal, and, hey, I got to match his energy every week.”

Allen and Payne played two seasons together at Alabama and are in their fifth season as teammates with Washington.

“I know what kind of moves he’s going to make,” Payne said. “He knows what kind of moves I like to make, so we can just work off each other.”

As a first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Payne’s Rookie contract included a fifth-year team option, which Washington exercised in 2021. That put Payne’s 2022 salary at $8.529 million, but he wanted to get a long-term contract done the way Allen did.

A first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, Allen was supposed to play the 2021 season on a fifth-year option of $10.051 million. But before that season, Allen signed a four-year contract extension worth $72 million.

“I don’t know if Payne’s going to be here,” Allen said. “I don’t know what his situation is. We’re just trying to enjoy one another, play off each other and just have fun.”

FOR MORE OF AL.COM‘S COVERAGE OF THE NFL, GO TO OUR NFL PAGE

The Alabama Game of the Week is the Chicago Bears-New York Jets contest on Sunday. Fifteen players from Alabama high schools and colleges are on the teams’ active rosters.

The complete Week 12 schedule (with all times Central and with point spreads from vegasinsider.com):

Thursday

· Buffalo Bills (-9.5) at Detroit Lions, 11:30 am (CBS)

· New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-9.5), 3:30 pm (FOX)

· New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5), 7:20 pm (NBC, Telemundo)

Sunday

· Denver Broncos (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers, noon

· Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) at Cleveland Browns, noon (WALA)

· Baltimore Ravens (-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars, noon

· Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins (-13), noon (WIAT, WKRG, WAKA, WTVY)

· Chicago Bears at New York Jets (-4.5), noon

· Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Tennessee Titans, noon (WHNT)

· Atlanta Falcons at Washington Commanders (-4), noon (WBRC, WZDX, WCOV, WDFX)

· Los Angeles Chargers (-4) at Arizona Cardinals, 3:05 p.m

· Las Vegas Raiders at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5), 3:05 p.m

· Los Angeles Rams at Kansas City Chiefs (-14.5), 3:25 pm (WBRC, WZDX, WCOV, WDFX)

· New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers (-9.5), 3:25 pm (WALA)

· Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (-7), 7:20 pm (NBC, Universo)

Monday

· Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5), 7:15 pm (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

CHECK OUT MAPS OF SUNDAY’S BROADCAST TV COVERAGE

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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