His up-and-down rookie season — the first-round draft pick from Mississippi State was the NCAA’s career pick-six leader but was benched five weeks into the season before earning the starting job on Sunday — has reflected much of the last four seasons For the Commanders under coach Ron Rivera: Early optimism was followed by disappointment before a late push brought new hope. Sprinkle in some close wins and even closer losses, add a few questionable play calls, then rinse and repeat.
Washington’s 29-26 loss at Lumen Field, decided by Jason Myers’ 43-yard field goal as time expired, was, as usual, filled with as many memorable and stunning plays.
The Commanders arrived needing just one win to get to .500 – no small feat after falling to 3-5 and then dealing away their top two pass rushers at the trade deadline – but instead they fell to 4-6, as Seattle (6-3) answered a late touchdown drive, Washington’s second touchdown of the fourth quarter.
As in many of their games in recent years, the Commanders helped themselves beat themselves. Serious mistakes at critical moments made them close, but not close enough.
“We have to be better there,” Rivera said. “…We didn’t get it done.”
Takeaways from the Commanders’ 29-26 loss to the Seahawks
Washington’s offense was one-dimensional and relied almost entirely on the pass. But a hefty dose of screen play and some creative play calling made his running backs his primary targets, and another great effort from quarterback Sam Howell kept the Commanders at bay.
Brian Robinson Jr. (119 receiving yards, 38 rushing yards) and Antonio Gibson (42 receiving yards, 13 rushing yards) were Washington’s top targets after running the ball just five times in the first half Fewest carries in a first half in three years. Each had a receiving touchdown.
Howell finished the game 29-for-44 for 312 yards, three touchdowns and a 103.9 rating. He added 17 rushing yards and took three sacks.
He got Washington off to a strong start and needed less than two minutes to help his team get on the board. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Howell fell to second-and-8 when Seahawks safety Jamal Adams rushed toward him. Adams managed to hit Howell, but the quarterback turned left, scrambled upfield and threw the ball to Robinson in the flat. Robinson turned upfield and ran 51 yards for the score, the longest catch-and-run by a Washington running back in more than two years.
Joey Slye’s extra-point attempt hit the left upright, but Washington’s defense held the Seahawks to a Myers field goal on their first drive – even after Forbes’ hit on Lockett gave them a free first down and 15 yards.
Another field goal by both teams gave Howell control of a crucial drive in the second quarter and a chance to lead his team to another score or give Seattle a chance to take the lead. The drive resulted in a loss of four yards after Howell took his first sack on third-and-4. Center Tyler Larsen was thrown back after linebacker Bobby Wagner made a spin move, and defensive end Leonard Williams beat guard Chris Paul inside to give the quarterback a clear path. Myers later kicked a field goal to tie the score at 9 at halftime.
Washington changed its lineup three weeks ago to account for an injury to left guard Saahdiq Charles (Paul replaced him) and five sacks allowed by former starter Nick Gates. For two weeks, the change made all the difference: Howell seemed more comfortable moving forward and finding ways to move the pocket, and he totaled four sacks in those games, a significant drop from his average of about six in the first seven games.
But on Sunday, his sacks essentially ended three drives; Tress Way punted after two of them, and the Commanders settled for field goal after field goal.
And the defense was dealt a major blow when defensive end James Smith-Williams, the starter after the trades of Montez Sweat and Chase Young, suffered a hamstring injury late in the second quarter and did not return. That left the team missing key starters at all three levels of defense: Forbes was in the locker room, Smith-Williams was on the bench and linebacker Cody Barton (ankle) was on injured reserve.
Still, Washington persevered and made as many notable plays as they did regrettable ones. Freshman Andre Jones Jr. was credited with two pass deflections. The defense held the Seahawks to a 1-2 score in the red zone and allowed them to convert just 4 of 14 third downs.
But Washington stayed true to its usual script and let the game slip away in the second half.
Howell lost a fumble on a designed run in the third quarter, but later in the quarter, Seattle running back Kenneth Walker III scored the go-ahead touchdown by completing a short 64-yard pass for the win. He becomes the second player in as many weeks (joining New England’s Rhamondre Stevenson) to score a 64-yard touchdown against Washington. This gave Seattle a 16-12 lead.
After another Seattle field goal, Robinson collected another big play, a 48-yard catch-and-run, and Gibson added a 19-yard receiving touchdown to tie the score at 19.
Washington quickly let Seattle regain the lead. The defense called three penalties — pass interference on fourth down and a facemask on cornerback Benjamin St-Juste and a too-many-on-field flag — to help the Seahawks move the ball 75 yards and score another touchdown. Quarterback Geno Smith found Lockett for a five-yard touchdown pass that gave Seattle a 26-19 lead with 3:47 left.
This gave the commanders enough time to fight back. It wasn’t pretty, but they did it. Jamison Crowder and Jahan Dotson dropped passes and Howell was nearly intercepted before throwing a dart to wideout Dyami Brown for a 35-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left. Slye scored the extra point to tie the game.
But that gave Seattle enough time to dominate the field again and score the game-winning field goal. Smith found DK Metcalf for two deep passes – a 17-yarder on third down and a 27-yard completion after rookie Quan Martin missed a tackle.
Smith shot the ball up top to stop the clock with three seconds left before Myers placed his shot, giving the Commanders another close, but not close enough, finish.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/11/12/commanders-seahawks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage The Commanders rally twice but still fall just short of the Seahawks