A week after a close loss to the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles, the Commanders bounced back with a close win over the New England Patriots, who are in last place in the AFC. Of Washington’s 4 wins this season, 3 were against teams that are currently in last place in their divisions, and 2 were against teams that are last in their conferences.
Sunday’s 20-17 victory was Washington’s first win over the Patriots in 5 meetings since Steve Spurrier’s Redskins beat them 20-17 on September 28, 2003. Redskins’ QB Patrick Ramsey was 10/22 with 0 TD, 0 INT and 2 sacks in that game, while his opponent Tom Brady went 25/38 for 289 yds with 2 TD, 1 INT and 1 sack. The 2003 victory as the last in a streak of 6 consecutive wins by Washington in the series dating back to 1978. Washington is 7-5 against the Patriots in the historical series dating back to 1972.
Washington’s win brings their record to 4-5, just 1 game behind the 7th seed Minnesota Vikings in the NFC playoff race. However, Washington’s 4 wins have all come against teams that currently have losing records. They are currently 4-2 against teams with losing records and 0-3 against teams with winning records, and they have just completed the easier part of their schedule.
Over the next 9 games, the Commanders will face 7 teams that currently have winning records and only 2 with losing records. While a lot can change between now and January, to make the playoffs the Commanders will need to demonstrate an ability to beat winning teams, something they have not done this season and have struggled to do throughout Ron Rivera’s tenure. From 2020 through 2022, Washington won an average of 2 games a season against teams that finished the season with winning records.
Against the Patriots’ 26th ranked defense (by points allowed and EPA/play, 16th by yards allowed), the Commanders’ offense scored 20 points and gained 432 total yards. The Commanders’ score was 5 points lower than the average points allowed by New England through Week 8. The Commanders gained 99 yards more than the average allowed by New England’s defense.
The defense held the Patriots to 327 total yards and 17 points. The Patriots’ score was 2 points more than their season average prior to the game. They gained 38 yards more than their season average.
The Commanders dominated in time of possession (37:10 to 22:50) and third down conversions (53% to 25%).
The main thing that kept the Patriots competitive were two Commanders turnovers. A forced fumble on Brian Robinson by LB Jahlani Tavai in the 2nd quarter gave the Patriots the ball on the Washington 25, leading to a touchdown three plays later. That was followed by a Sam Howell interception in the endzone, which ended a 16-play, 75-yard Commanders’ drive with no score to close the first half. The Commanders’ only takeaway sealed their victory, when Quan Martin got his first career interception on a pass deflected off of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hands at the Washington 33 yard line, with 38 seconds remaining.
This was the second time this season Washington has won despite losing the turnover battle. They only overcame a negative turnover differential to win once in 2022.
Another key to the Commanders’ victory was the defense containing big plays, something they have struggled to do for most of the season. On Sunday, the Patriots only had 2 passing plays of more than 15 yards (18 yd reception by Damario Douglas, 20 yd completion by JuJu Smith-Schuster), and only 1 running play of more than 12 yards (64 yard rushing TD by Rhamondre Stevenson).
The Commanders’ offense exploited the Patriot’s defense for 7 explosive passing plays, including a 33 yd TD reception by Jahan Dotson, and 2 explosive running plays (Antonio Gibson 12 yard run, Sam Howell run for 23 yards on 3rd and 23).
Aside from the horrible bad call on K.J. Henry’s first career sack, there were no penalties on the Commanders’ defense or special teams
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). Criterion: EPA > +/-2.5; Positive EPA favors Washington.
1:33, 3rd and 7 from WAS 23, Sam Howell completion to Byron Pringle for 26 yards, EPA 2.75
10:33, 2nd and 8 from WAS 16, Brian Robinson left guard for 7 yards, forced fumble by Jahlani Tavai, recovered by Davon Godchaux at WAS 25, EPA -3.4
6:16, 1st and 10 at NE 36, Rhamondre Stevenson 64 yard TD run, EPA -5.67
1:46, 3rd and 23 from WAS 44, Sam Howell left end for 24 yards, EPA 3.68
0:50, 3rd and 10 at NE 21, Sam Howell pass complete to Byron Pringle for 16 yards, EPA 3.12
0:23, 1st and 5 from NE 5, Sam Howell pass intended for Jahan Dotson is intercepted in the end zone by Kyle Dugger and returned for 20 yards, EPA -5.78
6:58, 2nd and 10 at NE 33, Sam Howell 33 yard TD pass to Jahan Dotson, EPA 4.16
3:55, 3rd and 8 from WAS 26, Sam Howell pass complete deep left to Terry McLaurin for 26 yards, EPA 2.82
2:41, 4th and 2 from WAS 27, Tress Way punt, returned by Demario Douglas for no gain. Penalty on Mack Wilson: holding for 10 yards (declined); Penalty on Mack Wilson: offside, 5 yards (accepted) No play, EPA 2.64
1:04, 4th and 4 from WAS 49, Mac Jones completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster for 6 yards, EPA -2.72
0.38, 2nd and 7 at WAS 41, Mac Jones short pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster deflects and is intercepted by Jartavius Martin at WAS 33, EPA 3.66
STATS AND SNAPS – OFFENSE
According to ESPN’s Total QBR metric, Sam Howell’s performance in Foxboro was the second best game of his career thus far, following his best performance last week against the Eagles. His 65.3 QBR ranked 8th among NFL QBs in Week 9. Howell currently leads the NFL in passing completions (235) as well as interceptions (9), sacks (44) and sack yards (293).
Howell completed 29 of 45 attempts (64.4%) for 325 yds, 1 TD and 1 INT, for a lowly passer rating of 84.0, while also taking 3 sacks for 17 yards. He also ran 5 times for 27 yards (5.4 Y/A) with 2 broken tackles and 1 first down on a 24 yard run on 3rd and 23.
Sunday’s game was the third time this season Howell has thrown for over 300 yards, equaling the total number of 300+ yard games by Washington in 2022.
Howell was pressured 12 times, for a pressure rate of 23.5%, his 4th lowest of the season and the 9th highest pressure rate faced by a starting QB in Week 9. His average pocket time (time to throw or pocket collapse due to pressure) of 2.2 seconds was the 22nd lowest in the league.
Not coincidentally, Howell threw 8 uncatchable throws, for his 4th highest bad throw rate (18.2%) of the season, but only the 10th highest in the NFL last week. The Week 9 bad throw leader, Daniel Jones (44.4%) has a 2024 cap hit $46,029,600 higher than Howell’s. Howell’s completion percentage was also not helped by 2 drops by receivers.
While Howell’s performance in New England was not quite up to the standard he set last week, it was very good for a QB making his 10th professional start. To put it in perspective, I compared it to the 10th starts of three of the great QBs of the modern era, as well as the top 6 current season leaders as ranked by Total QBR.
Howell’s 10th start was comparable to Brees and Manning. He was a little less accurate and error prone than Brady, but threw for more than 100 more yards and a TD, while taking the same number of sacks.
Howell’s 10th start was not as accurate and productive as Mahomes or Prescott or as error free as Purdy, but he was a lot better when it counted than Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa.
A week after Chris Paul replaced Saahdiq Charles at LG and Tyler Larsen replaced Nick Gates at center, the prevailing narrative is that the OL play is much improved. What do the numbers say?
In Week 9, the Commanders’ OL allowed a season high 18 total pressures, 3 more than were allowed by the previous lineup when they last played together in Week 7, and 10 more than their season lows of 8 pressures allowed in Weeks 1 and 6. The pressures allowed against the Patriots were distributed as follows:
Tyler Larsen: 5 hurries, 1 QB hit
Sam Cosmi: 4 hurries, 1 QB hit
Andrew Wylie: 3 hurries
Charles Leno: 2 hurries
Chris Paul: 2 QB hits
Brian Robinson averaged 2.6 yards before contact per rushing attempt in New England; while Antonio Gibson averaged 3.2 yards before contact per attempt. Gibson’s figure was the 8th highest among 41 RBs with 5 or more carries last week; and Robinson’s was 15th. It would appear that the new OL line-up is doing better than league average at creating running room for the backs.
The OL has been very good at avoiding penalties this season. Their only penalty this week a false start by Charles Leno for 5 yards.
After ceding the spotlight to Jahan Dotson last week, Terry McLaurin reclaimed the title of Commanders’ leading receiver, catching 5/7 targets (71.4% catch rate) for 73 yards and a season high 10.43 yards per target. He is currently on pace for 1,072 receiving yards, which would be his third highest season total, despite catching passes from the best QB he has played with.
Jahan Dotson was not far behind with 4 receptions for 69 yards and 1 TD. Dotson had a catch rate of 50%, with 1 dropped pass, his 4th of the season.
Byron Pringle was third on the team, catching 3/4 targets for 55 yards with a long of 26. Dyami Brown caught 2/4 targets for 33 yards with 1 dropped pass. His season average catch rate is 53.3%. Jamison Crowder caught 4/6 targets for 23 yards.
Brian Robinson led all Commanders with 63 rushing yards, 1 TD and 4 1st downs on 18 rushing attempts (3.5 Y/A). His otherwise good performance was marred by fumble for a turnover on a textbook forced fumble by Patriots’ LB Jahlani Tavai.
Antonio Gibson led the team in rushing average at 5.7 Y/A for 34 yards with 1 broken tackle. Gibson also had the highest rushing success rate of 66.7% (Robinson 50%).
Gibson was 4th on the team in receiving yards, catching 5/5 targets for 43 yards and 3 1st downs (success rate 100%). Robinson caught 1/2 targets for 4 yards and 1 TD.
Fullback Alex Armah had 8 run blocking snaps and achieved the second lowest PFF run blocking grade on the team at just 42.3.
Logan Thomas caught 4/6 targets for 31 yards. John Bates caught 1/2 targets for -5 yards.
Thomas had 12 run blocking snaps and achieved the 13th highest (4th lowest) PFF run blocking grade on the team (58.1). Bates played 17 snaps as a run blocker and achieved the 6th highest run blocking grade (61.9). Cole Turner did not get up to much.
STATS AND SNAPS - DEFENSE
In his debut on defense for Washington, K.J. Henry recorded his first NFL sack, which was robbed by one of the worst calls by referees of the 2023 season. The NFL does not record it as a sack, but we at Hogs Haven are better than that.
In his 3rd start of the 2023 season, James Smith-Williams recorded 1 solo tackle, 1 assist and 1 QB knock down. Casey Toohill, starting opposite of him, recorded just 1 assisted tackle. Rookie Andre Jones played just 14 defensive snaps, but was arguably Washington’s most productive DE with 1 solo tackle and 1 pass deflection at the line of scrimmage. Efe Obada chipped in 1 tackle assist.
All up, Washington’s DEs contributed 2 solo tackles, 3 assists, 1 pass defended, 1 QB knockdown and 1 sack which was stolen from them by the officials.
How much did Washington miss their former starters? In his debut for Chicago, Montez Sweat recorded 2 solo tackles and 1 pass defended. Chase Young rested on his laurels in a bye week with San Francisco. The answer in Week 9 would appear to be not much.
Jonathan Allen had his quietest game of the season with just 1 solo tackle and 1 QB hurry. Daron Payne followed suit with just 2 assisted tackles.
John Ridgeway played less than 1/3 as many snaps as either starter and registered 3 solo tackles. Phidarian Mathis seemed to be on the same wavelength as the other Alabama alums. He did not record a single defensive stat in 14 plays.
Jamin Davis led the Commanders in tackles with 4 solo and 5 assists, but he also had 1 missed tackle. In pass coverage, he only allowed 5 receptions on 9 targets (55.6%) with 1 pass breakup and 71 receiving yards (7.9 yds/tgt; opposing passer rating 81.2).
David Mayo had 3 solo tackles and 1 assist. In coverage, he allowed 2 completions on 2 targets for 10 yards.
Khaleke Hudson played less than 1/3 as many snaps as Mayo and registered 3 solo tackles and 1 assist. In coverage, he allowed 1 completion on 2 targets for a 14 yard TD.
There was some movement of players around the secondary this week. Benjamin St-Juste moved from boundary corner, where he had been playing for a few weeks while Forbes was demoted, back into a primary slot role. He played 50 snaps in the slot, 11 at boundary corner, and 3 in the box. Kendall Fuller remained on the opposite corner, playing 59 snaps at boundary CB and 5 in the slot. In his return as a major contributor, Emmanuel Forbes played 47 snaps at boundary CB and 1 in the box.
In one of the most remarkable week-to-week transformations of the season, Emmanuel Forbes returned to major coverage duties and looked like a completely different player to the rookie we had seen victimized by wide receivers through the first 8 weeks of the season.
Against New England, Forbes only allowed receptions on 3 of 9 targets (33.3% completion rate), with 3 pass breakups, for 20 yards and an opposing passer rating of 42.4. He only allowed an average of 1 reception every 18 coverage snaps, while covering #1 and #2 receivers. Of course, that performance was against Mac Jones who ranks 24th in QBR and the Patriots’ offense which ranks 21st in total passing yards and 25th in net yards per attempt. It will be interesting to see which Emmanuel Forbes turns up in Seattle.
Benjamin St-Juste’s stat line was not far below Forbes. He allowed only 4 receptions on 9 targets (44.4% completion rate) for 35 yards with 3 pass breakups and an opposing passer rating of 55.3. St-Juste allowed an average of 1 reception every 11 coverage snaps.
Kendall Fuller had a decent day in coverage allowing 6 completions on 8 targets for only 46 yards (5.8 yds/tgt) and an opposing passer rating of 88.5. Fuller is normally the Commanders’ best lockdown corner, but against the Patriots he allowed an average of 1 reception every 6.6 coverage snaps, which was the worst reception rate on the entire team, including linebackers. He also made 5 solo tackles and 1 assist but had 1 missed tackle.
Kam Curl played the most snaps at free safety, where he has moved since Darrick Forrest was injured. He played 27 snaps at free safety, 15 in the box, 14 at Buffalo Nickel (slot), 5 at wide corner and 3 on the defensive line. Percy Butler took 43 snaps at free safety, 14 at Buffalo Nickel, and 7 in the box. Quan Martin joined the safeties this week, playing 10 snaps at free safety, 2 in the box, 2 lined up on the defensive line, and 1 at slot corner.
Kam Curl tied with Kendall Fuller for second most combined tackles on the team, with 4 solo tackles , 2 assists and 1 missed tackle. On 46 coverage snaps, he was targeted twice and allowed 2 receptions for 13 yards.
Percy Butler had 3 solo tackles with 1 tackle for loss and 1 missed tackle. In coverage, he allowed 1 completion on 2 targets for 11 yards, with 1 pass breakup.
Quan Martin was not targeted in coverage, but made 1 opportunistic interception on a ball that deflected off of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hands. He was also credited with 1 pass breakup.
STATS AND SNAPS – SPECIAL TEAMS
Tress Way was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the 5th time in his career. Way punted 5 times for 239 yards, with 1 touchback and -2 return yards for an average of 40.2 net yards per punt. He landed 4 of 5 punts inside the New England 20 yard line.
Joey Slye was a perfect 2/2 on field goals and 2/2 on extra points.
Jamison Crowder returned 5 punts for 31 yards (6.2 yd/ret) dropping his season return average to 9.45 yard per return.
Antonio Gibson returned 3 kicks for 72 yards (24 yds/ret).
While Tress Way was the player of the week, Chris Rodriguez made the Commanders’ special teams play of the game* with a highlight reel tackle to catch Demario Douglass for -2 yards on a punt return.
Andre Jones had 1 missed tackle on special teams coverage; and Christian Holmes was penalized 5 yards for holding.
*Technically, the highest impact special teams play in the Commanders’ favor was a 5 yard offsides penalty on Mack Wilson, negating a punt attempt on 4th down, resulting in a Washington 1st down.
How likely is Washington to win a playoff game this season?
This poll is closed
Below 25%, but greater than 0
25% to 50%
Greater than 50%
If the Commanders win a Wild Card game and lose in the divisional round, should Ron Rivera keep his job?
This poll is closed
He should keep his job if they make the playoffs
Why is he still here?