The Commanders were clinging to a 19-13 lead with the Falcons closing in on the end zone late in last Sunday’s game when defensive tackle Daron Payne came up with a big play.
Payne batted Marcus Mariota‘s pass into the air and cornerback Kendall Fuller intercepted it to help seal the Commanders’ sixth win in their last seven games. The play fit with Payne’s overall impact as a pass rusher this season.
Payne has already set a career-high with 6.5 sacks and he’s one off tying his single-season high in quarterback hits. Payne also has 13 tackles for loss and he sees the numbers as a result of finally finishing the chances that are coming his way.
“I had a bunch of opportunities to have high-sack numbers before, but I missed them,” Payne said, via Ben Standig of TheAthletic.com. “Now I’m capitalizing on my opportunities getting the quarterback.”
Payne is in the final year of his rookie deal and the Commanders didn’t talk about a new deal this offseason, but a team official told Standig that they plan to “work to get something done” with him before free agency. Payne is one of many defensive tackles set for free agency or extensions — Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Jeffery Simmons, Dexter Lawrence, and Fletcher Cox are some of the others — in what may wind up being a lucrative offseason for players at the position.