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Stats & Snaps: Week 12 Commanders @ Cowboys

Embarrassment on the big stage 

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Commanders’ comprehensive loss to the Cowboys in a featured Thanksgiving Day game, in front of a near record audience, was quite literally the kind of performance that gets coaches fired.


According to CBS Sports PR, the Commanders’ 45-10 blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys was watched by an average of 41.4 million viewers, the third largest TV audience of any regular season game in NFL history. Just in case you were hoping that no one noticed how bad the Commanders were.

I could go into great detail about what factors led to the Commanders’ embarrassing defeat. But the score really tells you all you need to know.

Since 2020, NFL teams have only allowed 45 or more points 33 times in the regular season. Only 1/33 (3.0%; Seattle 48, Detroit 45 in 2022) won their game. Teams that give up 45 or more points in a game have around a 97% chance of losing.

The Commanders’ offense was only able to score 10 points. Since 2020, teams have scored just 10 points on 84 occasions. Only 4/84 (4.8%) won their game.

The Commanders quite simply did not do enough on either side of the ball to give themselves a fighting chance.

The story of last week’s embarrassing loss to the 2-8 Giants was turnovers, with the Commanders’ vulnerability to explosive plays helping New York to capitalize on their takeaways. This week the Commanders only gave up one turnover on a Sam Howell interception. However, the defense allowed 8 explosive passing plays (<15 yards) for 214 yards and 2 TDs; while the offense only countered with 5 explosive passes of their own for 118 yards and gave up the most explosive play of the game – a Sam Howell interception returned by DaRon Bland for a 63 yard touchdown.

Last season, the Commanders’ defense was the strength of the team. Jack Del Rio’s unit ranked 7th in scoring defense and allowed the 3rd least yardage in the NFL. In 2023, after receiving the first two players in the Commanders draft, they have dropped to 32nd in scoring defense and 29th in yardage allowed. After giving up 38 points in front of a near record viewing audience, it should come as no surprise that Del Rio was relieved of duties. He was lucky to have lasted as long as he did.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


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.


0:53, 2nd and 10 from WAS 15, Dak Prescott pass complete short right to Rico Dowdle for 15 yard touchdown, EPA -3.05

0:01, 3rd and 10 from WAS 25, Sam Howell completion deep left to Curtis Samuel for 30 yards, EPA 3.21


8:33, 1st and 10 from WAS 31, Dak Prescott complete deep left to Brandin Cooks for 31 yard touchdown, EPA -3.49


2:15, 3rd and 11 from DAL 16, Dak Prescott complete deep left to Brandin Cooks for 25 yards, EPA -3.07

0:59, 1st and 10 from WAS 38, Dak Prescott pass complete deep left to Jalen Tolbert for 31 yards, EPA -2.55


12:00, 4th and 1 at WAS 34, Sam Howell sacked by Jonathan Hankins for -10 yards, over on downs, EPA -2.86

10:38, 3rd and 1 at WAS 15, Dak Prescott complete short right to CeeDee Lamb for 15 yard touchdown, EPA -2.83

6:05, 3rd and 6 at WAS 34, Dak Prescott completion deep middle to Kavontae Turpin for 34 yard touchdown, EPA -4.66

5:30, 3rd and 7 at WAS 28, Sam Howell complete short right to Cole Turner for 29 yards, EPA 2.95

4:50, 2nd and 10 at DAL 43, Sam Howell short pass intended for Jahan Dotson intercepted by DaRon Bland at DAL 37 and returned for 63 yard touchdown, EPA -9.18 ***Second biggest negative play of the season***



Sam Howell complete 28 of 44 passes (63.6%) for 300 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT, while taking 4 sacks for 32 yards. He also ran twice for 13 yards and 1 TD.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Howell was pressured 25 times, equal to 52% of dropbacks, which is the highest pressure rate he has faced all season. PFF attributes all 25 pressures to failure by blockers (24 OL, 1 RB).

Howell did a good job of getting the ball out quickly, an essential survival skill when your blockers are losing over half the time. His average time to throw of 2.75 seconds was the third lowest since things finally clicked for him in Week 8.

Howell’s season sack total of 55 puts him well in front of Zack Wilson in second place with just 38. His current average of 4.58 sacks per game has him on pace to finish the season with 78 sacks. While that would put him 2 sacks ahead of David Carr’s single season record of 76, it is important to remember that Carr played in a 16 game season. Had Carr maintained the same sack rate for another game, he would have taken 81 sacks. Therefore, while Howell is still on pace to set a new season record for sacks taken, he is no longer taking sacks at a record rate.

To put Howell’s performance into perspective, I compared it to the 13th starts of three of the great QBs of the modern era, as well as those of the 5 current leaders as ranked by Total QBR.

Against Dallas, Howell had a similar passer rating to Peyton Manning in his 13th start. He made a pick that Tom Brady avoided, but threw for nearly 3 times the yardage and scored as many TDs. Even with a the pick, he had a much better game than Drew Brees in his 13th start.

Howell fell well short of three of the current season leaders (Mahomes, Purdy, Herbert), had a comparable overall performance to Josh Allen as measured by total QBR, and did a lot better than Dak.

Offensive Line

Pass Protection

According to PFF, the Commanders’ offensive line gave up 24 total pressures, including all 4 sacks. That is the highest number of pressures they have allowed all season. The pressures allowed were distributed as follows:

  • Chris Paul: 6 hurries, 2 sacks
  • Tyler Larsen: 4 hurries, 1 QB hit, 1 sack
  • Andrew Wylie: 4 hurries, 1 sack
  • Sam Cosmi: 3 hurries
  • Charles Leno: 1 hurry, 1 QB hit

Run Blocking

Yards before contact by running backs provides a measure of how well the OL is clearing running lanes. According to PFF, lead back Brian Robinson averaged just 1.0 yards before contact per rushing attempt over 15 attempts. Antonio Gibson averaged only 0.83 YBC/att. The NFL average for RBs with a minimum of 100 carries through week 11 is 2.5 YBC/att. It would appear that the Commanders OL was overwhelmed by the Cowboys’ defense on running downs.


Charles Leno drew his 8th penalty of the season when he was flagged 10 yards for holding. He was the only Commanders’ OL to draw a penalty.

Running Backs

Brian Robinson was second on the team in total yards from scrimmage with 15 carries for 53 yards (3.5 YPC) and 2 receptions on 3 targets for 1 net rushing yards, with a long of 19.

Antonio Gibson had 6 runs for 21 yards (3.5 YPC) and caught 3/4 targets for 16 yards.

Chris Rodriguez had 4 runs for 21 yards (5.25 YPC).

Wide Receivers

Curtis Samuel provided a bright spot on Washington’s offense. Despite only getting about 2/3 the playing time of McLaurin and Dotson, he led all receivers on the team by catching 9 of 12 targets (75% catch rate) for 100 yards.

This was Samuel’s biggest day receiving for Washington. He also became the first player this season to have a 100 yard receiving day against Dallas. In fact, he was the first player to have more than 86 receiving yards against the ‘boys. He also became the second Washington receiver this season to have over 100 receiving yards in a game.

Samuel currently ranks 19th among all NFL players with a minimum of 30 targets in catch rate (74.6%).

Jahan Dotson was second on the team with 5 receptions on 6 targets (83.3% catch rate) for 52 yards.

Terry McLaurin might have had his worst game for the Commanders. While he was not far behind Dotson with 50 receiving yards, he only caught 4/11 targets (catch rate 36.4%) and had 1 dropped pass.

Byron Pringle caught 2/2 targets for 27 yards. Dyami Brown was targeted once but failed to make the recepiton.

Tight Ends

A week after leading the team in receiving yards (tie with Brian Robinson) Logan Thomas had a down week, catching only 2 of 4 targets for 15 yards. Cole Turner was only targeted once, but made it count with a 29 yard reception. John Bates was not targeted as a receiver.

John Bates played 15 run blocking snaps and earned a 55.8 run blocking grade from PFF, the 14th lowest grade out of 17 graded players on the team. Logan Thomas played 13 run blocking snaps and earned a 59.5 PFF grade for his effort to rank 8th on the team. Cole Turner played 8 run blocking snaps. His 68.0 PFF run blocking grade was 2nd on the team after Sam Cosmi at 79.7.


Defensive Line


Casey Toohill was the most active of a fairly subdued DE group, with just 1 solo tackle, 1 assist and 1 QB hurry. KJ Henry had 1 tackle, 1 QB hurry and 1 missed tackle (per PFF, not PFR). Jalen Harris only played 7 snaps and managed to make 1 solo tackle. He was targeted once in coverage and allowed 1 reception for 1 yard.

Andre Jones was designated as a starter by the team, but played the third most snaps among the DEs and barely made an impression on the stat sheet. PFF credits him with 3 QB hurries, while PFR records no defensive stats for him.


Daron Payne was the most active of the DTs, recording 3 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 pass breakup. According to PFF, but not PFR, he also had 1 QB hurry.

Jonathan Allen had 1 solo tackle, 1 tackle for loss and 1 QB hit. PFF credits him with 1 additional QB hurry.

PFF credits John Ridgeway with 1 QB hurry. Phidarian Mathis did not record a defensive stat.


Making his return from injury, Cody Barton led the Commanders with 4 solo tackles, 2 assists, and 1 tackle for loss. Per PFF, he was targeted 3 times in coverage and allowed 3 receptions for 38 yards (opposing passer rating 118.7).

Jamin Davis had 2 solo tackles and 4 assists with 1 forced fumble. He was targeted 3 times in coverage, allowing 3 receptions for 20 yards (opposing passer rating 94.4).

Khaleke Hudson made 2 solo tackles and 1 assist. He was targeted once in coverage and allowed a 15 yard TD reception.


Coverage Alignments

With Emannuel Forbes out, nursing an injury, Benjamin St-Juste moved back out to boundary corner, playing 44 snaps out wide, 6 in the box, 3 in the slot and 1 lined up on the defensive line. Fuller stayed in place, playing 51 snaps at boundary corner, 2 in the box and 1 in the slot.

Quan Martin became the team’s primary slot corner for this game. He played a total of 37 defensive snaps, more than doubling his previous high of 18. He aligned in the slot for 24 snaps, in the box for 7, at free safety for 3 and on the DL for 2, with 1 at boundary CB.

Danny Johnson played 10 snaps in the slot and 1 on the DL.

Coverage Performance

Kendall Fuller had 4 solo tackles and 1 assist. He was targeted once in coverage, allowing 1 reception for 18 yards (opp. passer rating 118.7).

Benjamin St-Juste made 3 solo tackles. He was targeted 12 times, allowing 7 receptions for 95 yards and (opp. passer rating 83.7). He had 1 illegal contact penalty for 5 yards.

Quan Martin made 1 solo tackle and 1 assist. He was targeted 3 times in coverage, allowing 1 reception for 15 yards and 1 TD (opp. passer rating 90.3).

Danny Johnson made 1 solo tackle. He was targeted twice in coverage and allowed 2s reception for 42 yards and 1 TD (opp. passer rating 158.3).


Coverage Alignments

Kam Curl split time nearly evenly between box safety (24 snaps) and free safety (23 snaps) with 5 in the slot and 2 on the DL. Percy Butler played 27 snaps at free safety, 15 in the slot and 12 in the box.


Kam Curl had 4 solo tackles and 1 assist with 1 missed tackle. Rushing the passer he had 1 QB knockdown and 1 hurry per PFF. According to PFF, he was targeted twice in coverage and allowed 1 reception for a 34 yard TD. According to PFR, he had no targets in coverage. They attribute the receiving TD to Danny Johnson.

Percy Butler made 4 solo tackles and missed 2, for a 33.3% missed tackle rate. He was targeted 5 times in coverage and allowed 3 receptions for 87 yards and 1 TD, while breaking up 2 passes (opp. passer rating 143.7).


Joey Slye was 1/1 on extra points and 1/1 on field goals.

Tress Way punted 3 times, landing all 3 inside the Cowboys’ 20 yard line. He punted for a total of 119 yards, with only 1 punt returned for 5 yards, for an average punt distance of 39.7 yards and a net average of 38.0 yards.

Jamison Crowder returned 2 punts. He had returns of 9 yards and 0 yards.

There were no kickoff returns.

Khaleke Hudson made the Commanders’ lone tackle in special teams coverage. Christian Holmes tried to make another but missed.

There were no penalties on special teams.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


If Rivera is serious about doing things differently, what change would you most like to see?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Swap some players on the O-Line
    (1 vote)
  • 13%
    Play more zone coverage
    (16 votes)
  • 21%
    Blitz more
    (26 votes)
  • 14%
    Run the damn ball
    (18 votes)
  • 31%
    Let the young guys play – Chris Rodriguez, Jabril Cox, Tariq Castro-Fields, Mason Brooks
    (39 votes)
  • 2%
    Sit Sam Howell before he gets damaged
    (3 votes)
  • 12%
    Don’t change anything, we might miss out on Olu Fashanu and Joe Alt
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    Something else
    (5 votes)
123 votes total Vote Now