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Stats & Snaps: Week 4 Washington Commanders @ Philadelphia Eagles

There are good losses and bad losses, but no moral victories 

Washington Commanders v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It is not often that a team has a get-right game in a loss, but that is precisely what the Commanders did last Sunday in a 31-34 overtime defeat by the Philadelphia Eagles. A week after the blow-out loss to the Buffalo Bills, in which Sam Howell was sacked 9 times and picked off 4 times, the Commanders took the defending NFC Champions into overtime, with Howell leading an impressive comeback drive to end regulation time.

In the words of head coach Ron Rivera, “There are no moral victories, (But) this will help us going forward.” Sure thing, coach.

SOME STATISTICS

Much has been made about Ron Rivera’s decision to go for the extra point to send the game into overtime, rather than attempting a two-point conversion for a decisive win at the end of regulation. Was it the wrong decision? According to Pro Football Reference, 56 of 119 two-point conversion attempts succeeded in 2022 (success rate = 47%). There was therefore a 53% chance the Commanders would lose the game immediately if they attempted the two-point conversion.

In comparison, Ron Rivera’s decision to go for the extra point carried just a 10.6% chance of instant elimination, given Joey Slye’s extra point success rate of 89.4% in Washington. In overtime, teams that won the toss won 65% of games in 2022, lost 25% of games and tied 10%. Teams that lost the toss had the converse outcomes. Therefore, Ron Rivera’s decision to kick the field goal gave his team a 40% chance of winning, a 51% chance of losing and a 9% chance of tying. If the goal was to win the game, Rivera made the wrong decision. But if the goal was to avoid a loss, he made the right decision. In either case, the odds did not heavily favor one decision over the other.

Through 4 weeks, the Commanders’ offense is averaging 22.5 points per game, up 3.6 points per game from last season’s average. The defense, on the other hand, has allowed an average of 30.0 points per game, up 9.8 points per game from last season.

For the second time in 4 games, the offense scored over 30 points. They only did that twice in 17 games last season. Through 4 games, the offense is ranked 17th in points scored, 20th in total yards, 20th in passing yards, and 17th in rushing yards. They are ranked 26th in net yards per passing attempt and 9th in yards per rushing attempt. Nevertheless, through 4 games they have a 60.35% to 39.65% run balance. Against the Eagles, they attempted 41 passes (59.4%) to 28 runs (40.6%).

The offense is currently ranked 4th in the league in turnovers lost (8).

In Week 4, the Commanders’ offense was the 4th most efficient in the NFL, averging 0.234 EPA/play. They ranked 11th in passing efficiency at 0.267 EPA/play and 2nd in rushing efficiency at 0.159 EPA/play. The Commanders ranked 19th in offensive success rate at 42.9% of plays. They ranked 20th in passing success rate (43.4%) and tied for 13th in rushing success rate. The higher rankings in EPA/play than success rate indicate that their offensive success was driven more by making explosive plays than on average play success.

The offense had 4 explosive passing plays (> 15 yds), which tied for 14th most in Week 4. They had 2 explosive rushing plays (>11 yds), which tied with 4 other teams, including their opponents, for 17th most in the league.

The Commanders allowed an alarming 9 sacks in the loss to Buffalo, with PFF attributing 5 (56%) to the offensive line. Against the Eagles, the sack total dropped to 5, with just 2 (40%) attributed to the line. Presumably the remainder were due to Howell holding onto the ball. They key point is that the total went down from alarming to just high. Hopefully that trend will continue.

Sunday marked the third game in a row that the Commanders’ defense gave up more than 30 points. Washington’s opponents only scored more than 30 points 2 times in 2022. Through 4 games the Commanders’ defense has allowed the 4th most points in the league, the 12th most total yards, the 13th most passing yards, and the 12th most rushing yards. They rank 12th in defensive takeaways.

In Week 4, the Commanders ranked 27th in the NFL in defensive efficiency at 0.176 EPA/play (ideally, EPA/play should be negative on defense). They ranked 24th in pass defense efficiency at 0.281 EPA/play and 18th in run defense efficiency at -0.026 EPA/play. They ranked 25th in opponents’ success rate on defense at 48.6%. They ranked 22nd in success rate against the pass (50%) and 23rd against the run (45.8%).

On defense the Commanders gave up 5 explosive passing plays, which tied for 7th most in Week 4. They only gave up 2 explosive rushing plays, which tied for 17th most in the NFL.

Washington Commanders v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

10 BIGGEST PLAYS OF THE GAME

These plays had the biggest impact on the Commanders’ probability of scoring or being scored upon, as quantified by Expected Points Added (EPA).

Q1

8:58, 4th & 6 at PHI, Defensive holding penalty on Zach Cunningham for 5 yds, no play, EPA 3.43

Q2

13:34, 1st and 5 from PHI 30, Sam Howell pass complete deep middle to Logan Thomas for 27 yds, penalty on Terrell Edmunds accepted for 2 yds, EPA 2.99

1:01, 4th and 1 from PHI 34, Jalen Hurts left end for 3 yds, EPA -2.51

0:43, 1st and 10 at PHI 50, Jalen Hurts pass complete deep left to DeVonta Smith for 37 yds, EPA -2.44

Q3

7:24, 1st and 10 at PHI 41, Jalen Hurts pass complete deep left to A.J. Brown for 59 yard TD, EPA -5.34

Q4

1:49, 2nd and 4 at WAS 28, Jalen Hurts pass complete deep right to A.J. Brown for 28 yard TD, EPA -3.42

0:41, 4th & 2 at PHI 45, Sam Howell pass complete short right to Dyami Brown for 16 yds, penalty on PHI declined, EPA 3.37

0:02, 2nd and 10 at PHI 10, Sam Howell pass complete short right to Jahan Dotson for 10 yd TD, EPA 2.81

OT

7:13, 4th & 1 at PHI 50, Jalen Hurts up the middle for 2 yds, EPA -2.45

STATS AND SNAPS – OFFENSE

Quarterback

Howell ranked 8th among NFL starters in Week 4 with a Total QBR of 76.4. He cut down on the sacks, eliminated turnovers and made a number of key plays with well-placed throws, as well as rushing for 40 yards to evade pressure and turn broken plays into big gains. The final drive he led to even the score at the end of the fourth quarter was his second 4th quarter comeback in 4 starts. He currently leads the NFL in 4th quarter comebacks (2) and game winning drives (2).

While much better than last week, Howell’s 5 sacks on Sunday keeps him well on pace to smash David Carr’s 2002 record of 79 sacks in 16 games. Howell was pressured on 25% of dropbacks against the Eagles which, surprisingly, was only the 16 most among NFL starters. The most pressured starter in Week 4 was Patrick Mahomes at 45.7% of dropbacks.

Despite appearances early in the game that Howell was getting the ball out more quickly than previously, his average time to throw of 2.99 seconds was the highest of the season. As the game developed, he tended to attempt more long passes.

Like last week, all that pressure impacted Howell’s accuracy. He had 4 bad throws, equating to 10.3% of passing attempts. While that is a massive improvement from last week (20.7%), it is still well above his average of 4.9% through the first two weeks. Even so, 22 starting QBs had higher bad throw rates in Week 4.

After an impressive performance against a formidable Eagles defence Howell’s doubters are becoming fewer and fewer. While he has struggled with pocket awareness in his first few starts, he showed clear signs of growth in his bounce back from the Buffalo debacle. And the upside he displayed leading the final drive of the 4th quarter is undeniable. But for the benefit of those who are still clinging to the belief that he is a bust after just 4 starts, here is how his fifth start compared to those of some other notable QBs.

In his fifth start as a Pro, Howell had a much higher NFL Passer Rating than the three modern era greats. He took more sacks than the future MVPs, but did a better job of protecting the ball and put up more total yardage, albeit in a few more passing attempts.

I also compared him to the top three QBs of the 2020 draft class, two of whom could have become Commanders. Herbert had a better fifth start than Howell. Tua had nearly identical numbers, minus the sacks. And what about Joe Burrow? He turned out OK, I think. So did Manning and Brady. Howell is doing just fine for a QB early in his first full season starting.

Offensive Line

Pass Protection

The good news is that sacks attributed to the offensive line per PFF were down from 5 in Week 3 to just 2 in Week 4. Total pressures, on the other hand, saw a massive increase from 10 against Buffalo to 21 against the Eagles. The pressures allowed were distributed as follows:

  • RT Andrew Wylie – 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 5 hurries
  • LG Saahdiq Charles – 0 sacks, 1 QB hit, 6 hurries
  • RG Sam Cosmi – 0 sacks, 2 QB hits, 1 hurry
  • LT Charles Leno – 0 sacks, 0 QB hits, 3 hurries
  • C Nick Gates – 0 sacks, 0 QB hits, 1 hurry

Charles Leno made ESPN’s leaderboard, in a 7-way tie for 13th among OTs with a Pass Block Win Rate of 92%. He was the only Washington lineman to make the leaderboard.

Run Blocking

PFF’s Week 4 run blocking grades from 23 run block snaps were as follows:

  • Leno 75.1
  • Nick Gates 69.1
  • Saahdiq Charles 61.9
  • Sam Cosmi 61.8
  • Andrew Wylie 51.3

Charles Leno remains ESPN’s top ranked run blocking OT, with a Run Block Win Rate of 83%, tied with four others.

Penalties

Andrew Wylie had a false start penalty for 5 yards and a declined holding penalty. Charles Leno was flagged for holding for 10 yards.

Running Backs

Brian Robinson led the Commanders in rushing with 14 attempts for 45 yards (3.2 Y/A) and 1 TD. He averaged just 1.7 yards before contact per rushing attempt, which ranked 35th highest among RBs playing more than 15 offensive snaps in Week 4. He also had 2 receptions on 2 targets for 6 yards. He had one fumble that was recovered by Terry McLaurin for a TD.

Antonio Gibson was third on the team in rushing, after Sam Howell, with 19 yards on 6 attempts (3.2 Y/A). He also had 1 reception for 7 yards and 1 fumble that he recovered. Gibson averaged just 1.0 yards before contact per attempt, which ranked 49th among 58 RBs in Week 4.

Gibson and Robinson both had lapses in pass protection. Gibson missed a block to allow a sack, while Robinson gave up a QB hurry.

Derrick Gore did not record any stats.

Wide Receivers

Scary Terry had his biggest game of the season so far, to lead the Commanders with 8 receptions on 10 targets for 86 yards. He scored a TD by recovering Brian Robinson’s fumble in the end zone.

Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown tied for 2nd most receiving yardage on the team with yards apiece. Samuel got there by catching 7 of 8 targets to average 7.3 yards per reception. Brown did it by catching 2 of 3 targets to average 25.5 yards per reception. Brown was flagged for his first penalty in the pros for a 5 yard illegal formation infraction.

Jahan Dotson ranked 5th on the team with 4 receptions for 27 yards and a TD on 9 targets (44.4% catch rate). He had his first dropped pass of the season on a crucial 3rd and 4 play in the third quarter, which ended a drive and allowed the Eagles to pull ahead for the first time in the game.

Byron Pringle had 1 reception for 15 yards on 2 targets.

Curtis Samuel ranked 5th (4-way tie) in average separation at the catch point among all NFL receivers in Week 4, with an average lead of 4.4 yards. Terry McLaurin averaged a respectable 2.9 yards of separation. Jahan Dotson averaged 1.6 yards.

Tight Ends

Logan Thomas was third on the team with 3 receptions on 3 targets for 41 yards. He made one of the biggest plays of the game on a 27 yard reception in the 2nd quarter and held onto the ball despite a punishing illegal hit from Terrell Edmunds. Thomas had a false start penalty for 5 yards.

John Bates had 1 reception for 6 yards. Cole Turner failed to record a stat.

PFF ranked Thomas 4th on the team with a run blocking grade of 65.2. Bates ranked 5th, with a grade of 62.8.

STATS AND SNAPS - DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The defensive line remained relatively quiet against the Eagles. For the first time this season, Chase Young led the unit with 4 total pressures, including 1 sack. On the day he recorded 2 solo tackles and 1 assist and 1 TFL. In a contract year, Young’s 2.5 sacks in 4 games have him on pace for 11 sacks by the end of the season.

Jonathan Allen made his presence felt with 2 pressures, including 1 sack, 2 solo tackles and 2 assists, and 2 TFLs. He also had 1 missed tackle. Montez Sweat also got in there with 2 pressures, 2 solo tackles and 1 TFL. Daron Payne had an uncharacteristically quiet afternoon with just 2 pressures and 1 pass batted down.

James Smith-Williams recorded a single pressure. Abdullah Anderson and Casey Toohill each recorded 1 solo tackle. John Ridgeway’s only stat was 1 missed tackle.

Linebackers

Cody Barton was second on the team in solo tackles (8) and tied with Emmanuel Forbes for second in combined tackles (9). He blitzed 8 times and recorded 1 QB hurry. He was targeted twice in coverage on 38 coverage snaps and allowed 2 receptions for 14 yds (Opp. Passer Rating 95.8).

Davis had 5 solo tackles and 1 assist with 1 TFL and 2 missed tackles. He blitzed 6 times, with 0 QB pressures. He was penalized 5 yards for holding.

Cornerbacks

Coverage Alignments

Kendall Fuller took 67 snaps at boundary corner, 2 covering the slot, 1 in the box and 1 lined up on the defensive line. Benjamin St-Juste aligned in the slot on 60 snaps, in the box on 7 snaps, at boundary corner on 3 snaps, at free safety on 1 snap and on the defensive line on 1 snap. Emmanuel Forbes saw a major increase in playing time in Week 4, taking 57 snaps at boundary corner, 4 in the slot, 3 in the box and 1 on the D-line.

Coverage Performance

Benjamin St-Juste was a blanket in coverage, allowing just 1 reception for 5 yards on 2 targets in 42 coverage snaps. That equates to an amazing reception rate of 40 coverage snaps/reception. Kendall Fuller also had a strong performance, allowing just 2 receptions for 15 yards on 2 targets in 45 coverage snaps (21.5 cov snaps/rec).

One reason that Fuller and St-Juste had so few targets might have been that Jalen Hurts was having so much fun picking on rookie CB Emmanuel Forbes. Forbes was toasted by A.J. Brown and company, allowing 9 receptions for 197 yds and 2 TDs on 13 targets (69.2% receptions) in 42 coverage snaps (4.4 cov snaps/rec). Hurts had a 151.4 passer rating when throwing into Forbes’ coverage.

Penalties

St-Juste had a facemask penalty for 15 yards. Fuller was penalized 5 yards for pass interference.

Safeties

Coverage Alignments

Against the Eagles, Kamren Curl took 36 snaps at box safety, 20 at free safety, 10 at Buffalo Nickel (slot), 3 on the defensive line and 2 at right boundary corner. DeFoe lined up at free safety on 43 snaps, box safety on 13 snaps, Buffalo Nickel on 11 snaps, and on the defensive line for 3 snaps. Butler took 15 snaps at free safety, 3 at box safety and 1 at boundary corner.

Defense

Kamren Curl led Washington in solo (9) and combined (12) tackles. He also had 1 sack and 1 TFL. In coverage he allowed 4 completions for 63 yds on 5 targets (80% completion rate) in 43 coverage snaps (13.7 cov snaps/rec). Curl had an illegal contact penalty declined.

Forrest had 3 solo tackles and 4 assists with 2 missed tackles. In coverage he allowed he allowed 2 completions for 70 yards and a TD on 3 targets (Opp. Passer Rating 149.3) in 43 coverage snaps (20.5 cov snaps/rec).

Butler had 1 target for 0 receptions in 14 coverage snaps.

STATS AND SNAPS – SPECIAL TEAMS

Tress Way had his worst day of the season, averaging just 42.6 yards per punt on 5 attempts, and only 35 net yards per punt. He did not land any inside the Eagles’ 20. Joey Slye was once again Mr. Perfect, making 1 field goal on 1 attempt from 27 yds and 4 extra points on 4 attempts. Camaron Cheeseman got the ball to the kickers without incident. His PFF special teams grade of 60.6 was more than doubled last week’s mark of 30.0, which had been his high mark of the season to that point.

Antonio Gibson had 1 kick return for 29 yards, his best return of the season thus far. Jamison Crowder set a new season best mark with 1 punt return for 14 yards. Even so, his 5.5 yards/return season average still lags injured return man Dax Milne’s 2022 mark of 7.8 yards/return.

Jartavius “Quan” Martin led Washington’s special teams coverage units with 1 tackle and 1 assist. Cole Turner had a tackle, while Jeremy “All-Pro” Reavo had 1 tackle and 1 missed tackle. Derrick Gore and David Mayo each had 1 assist.

There were no penalties on special teams.


Poll

How should the Commanders attack the Bears?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Run Brian Robinson early and often
    (46 votes)
  • 3%
    Use 12 personnel and/or a fullback to improve blocking
    (5 votes)
  • 7%
    More short passing
    (10 votes)
  • 12%
    Pick apart the leaky secondary with deep shots
    (16 votes)
  • 7%
    Pressure Justin Fields
    (10 votes)
  • 18%
    Contain Justin Fields
    (24 votes)
  • 7%
    Intercept Justin Fields
    (10 votes)
  • 6%
    Leave them alone. Only a despicable character would harm a bear.
    (8 votes)
129 votes total Vote Now