There is really not a whole lot to say from a statistical standpoint about the Commanders’ road loss to the Seahawks. Despite the difference in records coming into Sunday’s game, the two teams were very evenly matched throughout 59 minutes of game time, but the defense was unable to contain Geno Smith and DK Metcalf in the final minute.
There was a lot of angst about Ron Rivera’s decision to kick a field goal instead of going for the with a two-point attempt after the Commanders pulled to within 1 pt with 52 seconds remaining. In the end, it wouldn’t have made a difference whether they converted a 2 pt attempt or not, because the defense was unable to contain Seattle’s 14th ranked passing attack (by EPA/play, 13th by total passing yards, 12th by net yards/attempt, 6th by success rate) for the final 52 seconds.
The Commanders’ 26-29 loss to the Seahawks was their 4th loss of the season in 4 games against teams that currently have winning records.
Despite having a 2:1 win/loss ratio, Seattle is the second weakest of the 8 6-win teams as judged by point differential (season PD = -1). Only Pittsburgh is lower at -26. At the other end of the power rankings, San Francisco and Dallas have cumulative point differentials of +109 (+12.1 pts/game) and +104 pts (+11.6 pts/game), respectively. The Seahawks rank 14th in the NFL in points scored and have allowed the 12th most points on defense.
The Seahawks’ 29 point score was their third highest of the season, while Washington’s score of 26 points was the 5th highest (and lowest) allowed by the Seahawks this season.
The Commanders’ offense was the 7th most efficient in the NFL in Week 10, averaging 0.109 Expected Points Added (EPA)/play. Unfortunately, the Seahawks ranked one place ahead of them at 0.123 EPA/play. The Commanders were middle of the pack in offensive play success rate at 41.0%. The Commanders were the 7th most efficient team on passing plays (0.248 EPA/play), but were the third least efficient on running plays (-0.357 EPA/play).
On defense, the Commanders were the 6th least efficient team in Week 10, allowing 0.123 EPA/play. They were the 9th worst defensive unit in terms of opponent’s success rate at 46.8%. The Commanders ranked 20th in the league in defensive efficiency against the pass (0.166 EPA/play allowed) and against the run (0.030 EPA/play).
The two teams were fairly well matched in terms of time of possession, but Seattle ran 15 more plays from scrimmage (73 vs 58) and gained 11 more first downs (27 vs 16). The Seahawks outgained the Commanders in total yardage gained (489 to 356), net passing yardage (369 to 288) and rushing yardage (120 to 68).
One area where the Seahawks really outplayed Washington was pressuring the QB. Sam Howell was pressured on 34.8% of passing plays and took 3 sacks, while Geno Smith was only 20.4% of drop backs and took 1 sack. That is not a huge surprise after Washington traded away their two starting DEs.
Washington’s struggles to contain explosive plays continued in Seattle. The Commanders’ defense allowed 8 passing plays of greater than 15 yards, for 196 total yards, including a 64 yard TD reception by RB Kenneth Walker. In run defense, they allowed 3 rushing plays of 12 or more yards (12, 13, 13).
On offense, the Commanders had 6 explosive passing plays of their own for 186 total yards, including TD receptions of 19, 35 and 51 yards. Washington only attempted 14 runs, but still managed to post two explosive rushes of 12 and 15 yards.
Through 10 weeks of play, Washington has established itself as the most pass-happy team in the league, with a 66.2% to 33.8% pass/run balance. Washington leads the NFL in passing attempts (397), but only ranks 5th in net passing yards (2,466) and 6th in passing TDs (17).
Despite all the hoopla about Sam Howell’s sack total, as a team, Washington only ranks 2nd in sacks taken (47), behind the Giants with 54. In fact, Washington only ranks 3rd in sack rate as a percentage of dropbacks (10.59%, behind the Giants at 15.21% and the Titans at 10.82%). Washington ranks 8th in total interceptions thrown, but is only 14th (tie with Seattle) in interception rate as a percentage of drop backs (2.3%).
Sam Howell as shown dramatic drop in sacks taken over recent weeks, coinciding with some substitutions on the offensive line, which raises the question of whether Sam or the OL is getting better. Let’s have a look at the numbers.
Through Week 8, Sam Howell averaged 5.4 sacks per game with an average sack rate of 14.1% of dropbacks. In the 3 games since Chris Paul replaced Saahdiq Charles and Tyler Larsen replaced Nick Gates, those figures dropped to 2.3 sacks per game and 4.8% sack rate.
Did the OL player substitutions lead the reduction in sacks? Through Week 8, the OL allowed an average of 12.25 pressures per game. In the three games since, that went up to 16.33 pressures per game. The OL has actually allowed more pressures since the substitutions.
How about Sam Howell? Through Week 7 (1 week before the OL adjustment), Howell had an average time to throw of 2.91 seconds and was very consistent from game to game (low 2.81 sec, high 3.02 sec). Starting with the Giants game, something seemed to click and his average time to throw suddenly dropped to 2.6 seconds. For the last 4 games, he has averaged 2.67 seconds.
It appears that Howell has improved at getting rid of the ball quickly, while the OL has got worse in pass protection.
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.
13:36, 2nd and 8 from WAS 49, Sam Howell pass complete short left to Brian Robinson for 51 yard touchdown, EPA 5.21
No plays with EPA > +/- 2.5
12:13, 2nd and 9 from WAS 31, Sam Howell pass complete short right to Brian Robinson for 48 yards, EPA 3.64
9:56, 1st and 10 from SEA 36, Geno Smith pass complete short middle to Kenneth Walker for 64 yd touchdown, EPA -5.67
9:10, 2nd and 5 at WAS 30, Sam Howell run right tackle for 15 yards, fumble forced by Devon Witherspoon and recovered by Riq Woolen, EPA -2.87
13:44, 4th and 1 at WAS 36, Zach Charbonnet right guard for 7 yards, EPA -2.75
8:06, 1st and 10 at SEA 19, Sam Howell pass complete short right to Antonio Gibson for 19 yard touchdown, EPA 2.69
4:43, 4th and 5 at WAS 39, Geno Smith pass incomplete short middle intended for DK Metcalf, pass interference on Benjamin St-Juste for 6 yards and a first down, EPA -2.72
1:28, 4th and 1 from SEA 43, Sam Howell pass complete short middle to Terry McLaurin for 8 yards, EPA 2.85
1:02, 3rd and 10 at SEA 35, Sam Howell pass complete deep middle to Dyami Brown for 35 yard touchdown, EPA 4.99
STATS AND SNAPS – OFFENSE
Sam Howell continued to look the part against Seahawks, as he has done for three weeks in a row. Howell completed 29 of 44 passes (65.9%) for 312 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs and ran twice for 17 yards, while taking 3 sacks for 24 yards and giving up 1 turnover on a strip sack.
This was the third game in a row that Howell threw for over 300 yards. The last time a Washington QB had three games in a row over 300 passing yards was the first three games of the 2016 season, with Kirk Cousins throwing to Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder and Sean McVay at OC.
According to Pro Football Reference, Howell was pressured 16 times on 47 drop backs (34% pressure rate), which tied with the Chicago game for the most total pressures this season, but was only the third highest pressure rate after Buffalo (38.5%) and Atlanta (37.9%). According to Pro Football Focus, all three of the sacks taken by QB Sam Howell were the result of missed blocks by the OL (Tyler Larsen, Andrew Wylie, Chris Paul 1 each).
Howell had 30 on target throws (71.4%) which ranked 18th in the league in Week 10. He threw 5 uncatchable passes and ranked 9th lowest in bad throw rate (11.9%). He had 1 pass dropped by the receiver and tied with his opponent, Geno Smith for the 7th lowest drop rate (2.4%).
Howell currently ranks 11th in accuracy among QBs with more than 100 passing attempts, with 76.5% of passes delivered on target. He has the 6th lowest rate of uncatchable passes, at just 12.8%.
One aspect of Howell’s game that might be underappreciated is that he runs like a fullback. Howell did not break any tackles on Sunday, but he has broken 5 tackles this season, which ranks 3rd among QBs, behind Taysom Hill and Lamar Jackson at 7 apiece. Howell leads all starting QBs in broken tackle rate at 1 broken tackle every 6.2 rushing attempts.
Howell’s performance in his 11th pro start was his 5th best of the season, as rated by ESPN’s total QBR (51.0). He ranked 14th among NFL starters in Week 10 by that metric. To put that performance in perspective, I compared it to the 11th starts of three of the great QBs of the modern era, as well as the top 5 current season leaders as ranked by Total QBR.
In his 11th start, Howell simply outclassed Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
The 2023 season leaders provided stiffer competition. The top 4 QBs all played very well in their 11th starts. Justin Herbert had an uncharacteristically bad game. Howell threw for more yards than all 5 of the 2023 leaders and more TDs than 3 of them, while throwing fewer picks than Josh Allen and Herbert and taking fewer sacks than Patrick Mahomes.
I keep hearing that the offensive line play has improved since Chris Paul and Tyler Larsen replaced Saahdiq Charles and Nick Gates. There may be some truth to that in the running game, but there is little statistical evidence of improvement in pass blocking.
In Week 10, the Commanders’ OL allowed 17 total pressures, their third highest total of a season. In last week’s Stats and Snaps I made an error. Last week’s total of 18 was the second highest of the season after their season high of 21 in the first Eagles game. Therefore, two of the three highest pressures allowed totals have come in the three games since the OL substitutions. The pressures allowed in Seattle were distributed as follows:
- Tyler Larsen: 4 hurries, 1 sack
- Sam Cosmi: 4 hurries
- Andrew Wylie: 2 hurries 1 sack
- Charles Leno: 2 hurries, 1 QB hit
- Chris Paul: 1 hurry, 1 sack
After concluding that PFF blocking grades are total garbage, I have settled on running room given to the running backs as a metric for run blocking success. Against Seattle, Antonio Gibson averaged 2.8 yards before contact per rushing attempt, which ranked 19th among 47 RBs with a minimum of 4 attempts in Week 10. Brian Robinson averaged 1.6 yards before contact, which ranked 33rd out of 47 backs. It does not appear that Washington’s O-Line is doing anything special in the running game.
One thing the OL is doing well this season is limiting penalties. This week they had one penalty on a Charles Leno false start for 4 yards.
Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy took the Commanders’ offense on a trip to Bizarro World this week with Brian Robinson becoming only the third receiver on the team to have more than 100 receiving yards in a game this season. Robinson led all Commanders in receiving with 6/6 receptions for 119 yards (19.8 Y/R) 1 TD and 3 1st downs. He also rushed 8 times for 38 yards (4.75 Y/A) and 2 1st downs. Impressively, Robinson scored or gained a first down on 42.9% of touches.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Robinson’s stat line was that he broke 2 tackles after receptions (3.0 rec/broken tackle) and 4 tackles on rushing plays (2.0 attempts/broken tackle). Not surprisingly, Robinson led all NFL players in broken tackles in Week 10.
Fellow running back Antonio Gibson was 2nd on the team in receiving yards, catching 5 of 6 targets for 42 yards and 1 TD. He was also one of three Commanders to gain yards on the ground, with 4 rushes for 13 yards (3.25 Y/A).
Last, but certainly not least, fullback Alex Armah recorded his second touch of the season, catching his lone target for 3 yards.
The Commanders’ wide receivers did a disappearing act this week. Three of the team’s four leading receivers played different positions. It was not for want of trying on Sam Howell’s part, either. Terry McLaurin was Howell’s most frequently targeted receiver, but finished 5th on the team with only 33 receiving yards because he only caught 4 of the 8 passes thrown his way.
For the second time in his career with the Commanders, Brown led the wide receivers in receiving yards with 2/2 receptions for 41 yards and 1 TD. The thing is, the last time he did that, he had 2 receptions for 105 yards and 2 TDs.
Byron Pringle caught 1 of 2 targets for 7 yards and Curtis Samuel caught 2 of 6 targets for just 6 yards. Jahan Dotson was targeted twice with no receptions. Jamison Crowder was targeted once and dropped the pass while looking upfield.
Logan Thomas caught all 5 passes thrown to him for 40 yards and 2 1st downs. John Bates was equally reliable, catching all 3 of his targets for 21 yards. Perhaps the TEs should hold a clinic to teach the WRs how to catch the football. Dyami Brown can take the day off.
STATS AND SNAPS - DEFENSE
Casey Toohill got a big opportunity with Montez Sweat shipped to the Bears and did one of just about everything. Toohill registered 1 solo tackle, 1 assist, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 QB hurry, 1 QB knockdown and 1 missed tackle. He had 1 target in pass coverage and allowed 1 reception for 15 yards. It’s like his stat line was written in binary.
The other starter, James Smith-Williams left the game with a hamstring injury. In 24 snaps before the injury he had 1 solo tackle and 1 QB hit. Efe Obada filled in for Smith-Williams after the injury and in 50 defensive snaps registered just 1 solo tackle.
Playing a little under a third as many snaps as Obada, rookie Andre Jones had 1 assisted tackle and 2 pass blocks. His earlier drafted rookie classmate K.J. Henry only played 12 snaps and failed to register any defensive stats.
Jon Allen had 4 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB hurry and 1 QB knockdown.
Daron Payne continued to get some much needed rest as he has done for the past 3 weeks. In Seattle, he recorded 2 solo tackles, 3 assists, and 1 QB hurry. John Ridgeway took that to the next level with just 1 assisted tackle in 31 defensive snaps. Phidarian Mathis matched his production exactly in 13 fewer snaps.
If this is the strength of team in a must win game, the Commanders might be in a bit of trouble.
Jamin Davis was almost a lone bright spot in the front 6. He was the Commanders’ leading tackler with 6 solo tackles, 5 assists, 2 tackles for loss and 1 missed tackle. Unfortunately, the shine came off in pass coverage where he allowed 4 completions on 4 targets for 52 yards and an opposing passer rating of 118.7.
David Mayo made 5 solo stops and 2 assists with 1 missed tackle. He kept pace with Davis in coverage, allowing 5 receptions on 5 targets for 51 yards and an opposing passer rating of 109.2.
Khaleke Hudson was only allowed on the field on 8 defensive snaps and registered 1 assisted tackle and 1 QB hurry.
Kendall Fuller played 75 snaps at boundary CB, with 4 in the box and 1 in the slot. Emmanuel Forbes was slated to start but was rudely ejected after just 5 snaps for coming in too high on a tackle. With Forbes out, Benjamin St-Juste played 62 snaps on the boundary, 9 in the slot, 7 in the box and 2 lined up on the defensive line. Backup Danny Johnson came in when Forbes left and played 45 snaps at slot corner, 3 in the box and 1 on the D-line.
Kendall Fuller had 5 solo tackles and 1 assist. His receiver was targeted 6 times in 55 coverage snaps and he allowed 5 receptions (83.3% completion rate, 12.3 cov snaps/rec) for 44 yards and an opposing passer rating of 97.2.
Benjamin St-Juste made 5 solo tackles and 2 assists with 1 missed tackle. He was targeted 13 times in coverage and allowed 7 receptions (53.8% completion rate, 8.0 cov snaps/reception) for 95 yards and 1 TD, with 2 pass breakups and an opposing passer rating of 103.0. He was also flagged for pass interference (6 yards and a first down on 4th and 5 at the WAS 39) and a 15 yard face mask. The 2 penalties helped to extend a Seattle drive late in the 4th quarter which ended in a go-ahead score.
Danny Johnson made 3 solo tackles with 1 missed tackle. In coverage, he allowed 5 receptions on 7 targets (71.4% completion rate, 6.0 cov snaps/reception) for 102 yards and 1 TD. He also blitzed 4 times and had 1 QB hurry.
Kamren Curl played 38 snaps at free safety, 24 in the box, 14 in the slot, 2 at boundary corner and 2 on the D-line. Percy Butler played 59 snaps at free safety, 11 in the box and 10 in the slot. Quan Martin played 7 snaps at box safety, 5 at free safety, 4 on the D-line, and 2 in the slot.
Kam Curl was the second most prolific tackler with 7 solo and 3 assists. In coverage, he was targeted twice and allowed 1 reception for 3 yards. He also blitzed 3 times, producing 1 QB hurry and 1 QB knockdown.
Percy Butler had 6 solo tackles and 3 assists with 1 tackle for loss and 1 missed tackle. He was targeted twice in coverage, allowing 1 reception for a loss of a yard with 1 pass breakup.
Quan Martin had 2 solo tackles and 2 assists with 1 missed tackle. In coverage, he allowed 2 receptions on 2 targets for 9 yards.
STATS AND SNAPS – SPECIAL TEAMS
Tress Way punted 5 times for 227 yards with 2 returns for 14 yards (42.6 net yds/punt), and 2 punts landed inside the Seahawks’ 20 yard line. He also rescued a bad snap from Camaron Cheeseman to allow Joey Slye to kick a field goal.
Joey Slye missed 1 of 3 extra point attempts when the ball hit the upright. He is 21/22 on extra points for the season. He was 2/2 on field goals despite the long snapping issues.
Antonio Gibson was kept busy returning kickoffs, running back 5 for 133 yards (26.6 yds/ret). Jamison Crowder returned 2 punts for 9 yards.
Christian Holmes and John Bates each made a tackle in special teams coverage and Quan Martin had 1 assist.
The special teams units played penalty free.
Who was the Commanders’ most valuable player in Seattle not named Sam Howell or Brian Robinson?
P Tress Way
LB Jamin Davis
WR Dyami Brown
S Percy Butler
DE Casey Toohill
FB Alex Armah
Sorry, I don’t believe in participation trophies