Commanders' Terry McLaurin got the best of Packers' Jaire Alexander when it mattered most

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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LANDOVER, Maryland – Jaire Alexander’s performance late in the Green Bay Packers’ 23-21 loss to the Washington Commanders wasn’t what you’d expect from one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL.

He was served a big slice of humble pie.

Alexander isn’t the first to have his ego deflated while trying to cover an NFL receiver the caliber of Washington’s Terry McLaurin.

It’s what Alexander had been begging for, the chance to take the other team’s best receiver out of the game, keep him under wraps so that the quarterback must find someone else open.

Halfway through the game, McLaurin had one catch for 6 yards.

Washington's Terry McLaurin celebrates after catching a touchdown.

But anyone who was watching closely saw McLaurin was open more often than that one reception. He had Alexander beaten twice over the middle and quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw the ball so far behind him both times, McLaurin walked away looking dejected.

Five plays into the second half, Heinicke got McLaurin one-on-one on a go route down the right sideline and threw a perfect ball, only where McLaurin could catch it. Alexander had tight coverage, but he was inside McLaurin and the ball was thrown outside.

“When I knew the go route was on and I saw a man with no help,” McLaurin said, "I don’t necessarily take it as disrespecting me, but at the same time as a receiver you see it and think that this is a great opportunity for myself.

“I have a lot of respect for Jaire Alexander and what he does in this league, but I have a lot of confidence in myself, too.”

The 37-yard touchdown on that play was not the end of the world. It gave Washington a 17-14 lead.

The problem with following a receiver like McLaurin is that there were numerous times Alexander had no safety help over the top or linebacker help underneath. It comes with the job and it’s what Alexander is paid to do.

It just so happened Sunday, Washington had 72 offensive plays and McLaurin was bound to make one or two.

“Every dog has his day,” Alexander said. “He gets paid a bunch of money, just like me. So, hats off to him because he played a good game.”

McLaurin had one more third-quarter catch for 4 yards and nothing else until Washington’s final drive.

On second-and-6 at the Washington 29, the Commanders set Alexander up. Knowing he would be man-to-man, probably with no help, they had McLaurin run a hard slant to the middle, stop, pivot and go to the sideline.

Alexander honored the slant and slipped coming back to the out route. McLaurin caught it and ran another 10 yards or so for a first down.

“That was a really good call for the route we were in,” Alexander said. “It was perfect. There was no help underneath. It was a good route. Good throw and catch.”

The final blow came on third-and-9 at the Washington 44 with just over 2 minutes left and the Packers out of timeouts. Stop the Commanders and the Packers have a chance to drive for the game-winning field goal.

McLaurin ran to the sideline and Heinicke released the ball just as he took a shot from nose tackle Kenny Clark. The ball sailed past the sticks and to the outside of where Alexander had tight coverage.

With vision to the ball, McLaurin came back for the ball as Alexander turned to defend.

More:Dougherty: Can Packers run the table like in 2016? It seems much less plausible this time.

“Taylor did a great job of leaving it on the outside so I could get to make the play,” McLaurin said. “When you’re in a one-on-one situation where the DB may not be able to locate the ball, you’ve got to attack it first.”

Alexander said his confidence is not shaken over the performance. He didn’t shy away from reporters after the game and vowed that things would be different the next time the two meet. He didn’t say it, but his confidence is such that he probably wants to cover Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs, one-on-one next week.

“He made the catches when it mattered,” Alexander said of McLaurin. “I covered him a minimum of 30 snaps and he caught four passes (five total for 73 yards). Hats off to him because he played a good game, but if we played tomorrow, I’d be on top.

“That’s how I feel.”

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