Put them all aside – this is simply the ultimate insult to a doomed regime.
Focus on what’s important. Focus on quarterback Sam Howell. While there are many pressing questions for Washington’s leadership – including whether managing partner Josh Harris will act – the most important one remains the same: Is Howell the guy?
Sunday’s defeat was not a step back. Its development continues to promise a bright future. But after an emotional few weeks, it was a test that served as a reminder that Howell isn’t done being a franchise quarterback, especially since the leaders who will ultimately have that conversation likely aren’t in Washington yet. The performance shines a spotlight on Thanksgiving, when Howell will try to recover from a short week against an elite Dallas Cowboys defense.
Howell didn’t just focus on Washington’s offensive struggles against New York. He had none of the three Commander faults. In a race destined for losses, he did not have a brutal false start. However, he seemed upset that Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale ordered fewer rushes and more zone coverage. Howell also didn’t handle pressure as well as he did against Philadelphia or New England, which made his throws less accurate and led to three interceptions – his second game this year with multiple picks.
Svrluga: It doesn’t matter who trains the Commanders now. What matters is who will be next.
“It starts with me,” Howell said. I have to do a better job taking care of football. You know, I didn’t give my team a chance to win today. But we all have to be better. “
“It’s always a step forward [for Howell]said coach Ron Rivera. “Learns; he grows. He made some mistakes, but he persevered. He fought and gave us a chance to win.
At the start of Sunday’s game, offensive coordinator Eric Bujemy used a heavier staff and engaged the running game more than he had all year. During the week, Bujemy told the team he would “do a better job calling the runs,” right tackle Andrew Wylie said. Bniemy then got creative looking for a deep play – three tight ends and one wide receiver, Dyami Brown – but Howell overthrew Brown and cornerback Nick McCloud grabbed an interception. Rivera said of the throw: “I’m not sure it was the right decision.”
“I thought it was the right read,” Howell said. “I just threw it too far down the field.”
Howell’s most critical moment came late in the first half after attempting to score a touchdown. Giants safety Xavier McKinney pushed him away, and Howell landed hard on his head and left shoulder. He stayed down for a few seconds. According to the team, doctors examined him and approved concussion protocols.
“Everything’s fine,” Howell said. “No major injuries or anything.”
For the first three quarters, Bujemy kept his balance, as he has throughout the season. However, Martindale, who attacked Howell at a historic rate in the teams’ first meeting, changed his mind and sent just 11 tackles out of 52 tackles (21.2 percent).
In the fourth quarter, when his team was leading 21-12, Bujemy accelerated the passing game. Howell couldn’t pull off a dramatic comeback like he did against Philadelphia and Seattle. He made two more interceptions – the first was tipped by a defensive lineman and the second was a hit that Howell failed to get to the sideline, resulting in a devastating pick-six.
Four lessons from the Commanders’ defeat against the Giants
Later, Giants defenders said they thought they confused Howell with hidden coverages and quick pressure, especially on his second interception. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux boasted about the commanders’ difficulties in the passing game – “Pressure causes pipes to burst,” he said – and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said he’s noticed growth in Howell.
“I seemed a little more confident there,” Lawrence said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”
Frustration from Howell’s teammates grew in the locker room. Here’s just a small sample.
Winger Jahan Dotson: “This one hurts a lot.”
Right back Sam Cosmi: “It sucks. This is a game you can win. The fact that we couldn’t win that game – to be completely honest with you, I’m a little lost for words. Sloppy football. Definitely too many turnovers. I’m just tired of not being consistent overall. One week is defense, one week is offense, one week is defense, and one week is… like, can we just put the game together?
This is Howell’s challenge. His commitment on the pitch is unquestionable. Vocal leadership in the locker room was either absent or ineffective. As a debutant at the age of 23, will he be able to rally his teammates after a devastating defeat? Will he be able to do it at a time when, as left back Charles Leno Jr. admitted, – the players are finding it harder and harder to believe the refrain they and Rivera have used all year – that there are games left and that they can save the season?
“We have to put this game behind us,” Howell said, and that’s not as easy as it sounds. Commanders tried to divide the season into compartments; a prime example being Chicago being kicked off the team four days after an emotional overtime loss to Philadelphia. But therein lies an opportunity for Howell.
During Sunday’s news conference, he praised the Cowboys as a “really good opponent.” But he repeated that “the most important thing is that we have to put this behind us.” Now he must help his team do just that with words and deeds.