Washington Post (paywall)
Dolphins 45, Commanders 15
It’s over. Done.
The Washington Commanders fired their defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach and had a plan to simplify parts of their defense so young players could play faster. They hoped things would be better. Different. At least not the same outcome as when they gave up 400-plus yards and 45 points to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
Sunday ended any illusion that these Commanders are anything but a team trudging to the finish line of a lost season. In front of a sellout crowd at FedEx Field, Washington fell into an early 17-point hole against the Miami Dolphins and never recovered, giving up 406 yards in a 45-15 loss. The defeat was Washington’s fourth in as many weeks and its sixth in the past seven games. It ensured the team would enter its bye week in a tailspin and with few options to reverse course
Washington had allowed a league-high 98 explosive plays (16 or more yards passing, 12 or more yards rushing) to opponents before Sunday. The Dolphins needed only three plays to get No. 99 — and then racked up eight more explosive plays throughout the game.
In the locker room after the game, the tension was palpable as veterans expressed frustration over not just Sunday’s loss but also the team’s failed attempts to improve year after year.
“Yeah, I’ve been dealing with this for seven years,” defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said. “I’m tired of trying to build character. My character has been built up enough. I’m trying to win.”
Added Samuel: “It sucks to lose and to lose like that. We got so much talent, and we know that. But if we’re not going out there and showing everybody, we’re just talking about it.”
“Honestly, I’d say it sounds like words,” running back Antonio Gibson said of the team’s discussions of growth. “We keep saying that, but … it’s too late for growth right now.”
The Athletic (paywall)
The roster’s improvement, sincere at times over the past four years, has faded. This team doesn’t need a retool or a refresh, but a rebuild. The final four contests won’t change that assessment, whether Rivera stays through Week 18 or not.
The idea of Rivera finishing the season is unacceptable to some fans, who are outraged by a year that began with optimism following the ownership change, a projected top-10 defense and the prospect of quarterback Sam Howell succeeding. They point to zero campaigns with a winning record in the four seasons under Rivera. Two assistants were fired last week, including defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Rivera can go as well now, right?
The expected outcome — that Rivera will finish the year — won’t be a crowd-pleaser. But there’s no good reason to fire Rivera before Week 18 beyond giving the angry an emotional sugar high. The damage is done.
This roster is filled almost exclusively with players acquired since Rivera’s hiring in January 2020. The lack of game-changers and steady contributors squashes any possible case that the overall talent floor has been raised.
Do a side-by-side comparison with the squad Rivera inherited. The same star players were there — McLaurin, defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne — but the overall list of impact players is shorter. That’s partly due to the midseason trades of defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young for a pair of 2024 Day 2 draft picks. Another factor: You could argue Washington has added zero blue-chip players under Rivera.
[R]elieving Rivera of his duties before the Week 18 home rematch with the Cowboys would matter little. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s primary role is to help Howell’s development. Promoting him to interim head coach would complicate his daily schedule and likely offer false hope of him getting the full-time job.
New voices are coming to the organization after the season. New hires, new players, new across the board. That’s when change will come. Will they believe in Howell long term? Or find better ways to use these players? Or, as Rivera did, have the team attempt a 53-yard field goal down 23 points in the second half? We’ll see.
For now, that growth and development chatter has lost oomph.
Washington Post (paywall)
Let’s assume Josh Harris spent the second half of the Miami Dolphins’ 45-15 dissection of his Washington Commanders looking away from the “action” and instead weighing who might be his next coach. At this point, how could he not? Given the scene Sunday, it’s so easy to imagine a scenario in which Harris looked across the field at Dolphins Coach Mike McDaniel with no small degree of envy and said, “Get me one of those.”
All you need to know about how Sunday played out is that Rivera fired his defensive coordinator Nov. 24 and took over play-calling himself, and it took McDaniel all of three plays to get wideout Tyreek Hill — he of the fastest-in-the-league legs — in one-on-one coverage with rookie defensive back Quan Martin and the safety shaded to the wrong side.
But that play was less Hill over Martin than it was McDaniel over Rivera. The mismatch on the field was obvious. The mismatch on the sideline might be greater.
In everything the Dolphins did Sunday and are doing this season, you can feel the preparation. Tagovailoa saw the safety shading away from Hill. The quarterback locked eyes with his wide receiver: Adjust your route. Go for it.
“That was something that we discussed during the week,” McDaniel said. “And it was really in the hands of the quarterback to — if he thought Tyreek would have a shot on the slot fade — to adjust his route. … It was something we had kind of planned to have that option.”
It’s the latest addition to an unfortunate trend for Washington, which has given up at least 30 points in eight of their 13 games. The Dolphins eclipsed that number by halftime with Tua Tagovailoa completing 12 of his 15 pass attempts for 215 yards and a perfect passer rating (158.3).
But Howell and the Commanders’ offense couldn’t capitalize on those moments enough, which was paramount if they had any chance to keeping up with the Dolphins. The one thing that couldn’t happen was giving up easy points. That’s exactly what transpired, though, as Howell’s pass intended for Jahan Dotson was intercepted at the line of scrimmage and returned 33 yards for the score to make things 17-0.
How did QB1 fare in his latest outing?
Sam Howell’s mentality
It would have been easy for Sam Howell to throw in the towel with the same defeatist mindset of most Washington Commanders defenders that took the field. But that’s not how the quarterback is built.
Howell was always fighting. Always kept his eyes downfield in the face of concerted pressure. Always looked to make a big play when the result became a foregone conclusion.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough to change the overall outcome. Howell looked like a one-man band most of the time - especially after the Commanders ruled running back Brian Robinson Jr. out with a hamstring injury - which was thanks in no small part to some established figures downing tools when some high character was needed.
This sort of mentality shouldn’t go unnoticed when it’s time to fully assess Howell at the end of 2023. His never-say-die attitude is something other players can feed off in better situations, which only enhances his chances of getting another look in 2024 with multiple upgrades around him.
That’s still up in the air with Ron Rivera living on borrowed time. Howell is a keeper to many fans, but the temptation for Josh Harris’ ownership group to take a quarterback prospect with what could be a top-three selection next spring means nothing should be off the table.
When the Washington Commanders announced on X Saturday that FedEx Field was sold out for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins, it meant every home game this season was a sellout. So, for new owner Josh Harris, that meant six home games thus far, and all were sellouts.
That may not appear to be a big deal from those outside of Washington, but if you’ve followed the franchise in recent years, you’d know it’s been difficult to convince Washington fans to come to games.
And considering the Commanders were 4-8 heading into their Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins, they weren’t necessarily a hot ticket.
As it turns out, it wasn’t Washington fans who packed FedEx Field. It was Miami fans.
To make matters worse, a fire alarm was going off after the game, which turned out to be a false alarm. In Washington’s last home game three weeks ago, there was a water issue where players couldn’t take hot showers after the game.
Washington Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin voiced frustration following his team’s loss to the Miami Dolphins.
[S]tar receiver Terry McLaurin, who failed to record a reception and saw only three targets, is frustrated.
“I ran a lot of cardio,” McLaurin said postgame. “It happens, it comes with it when it’s tough. It’s frustrating but I’m going to keep coming in and practicing and playing hard.”
Still, McLaurin has his sights set on more than just the stat sheet, instead wanting to see certain characteristics splattered across his film.
“Making extra blocks on the field, trying to clear it out for guys, continue to run my routes hard - that’s what I’m going to do,” McLaurin said. “I’m not going to quit just because I’m frustrated.”
McLaurin leads Washington in targets (97), receptions (60) and receiving yards (694), but he’s averaging just 53.4 yards per game. His current career-low is 61.9 yards per game, coming in 2021. He still hasn’t eclipsed 100 receiving yards in a game this season.
Winter is coming in Washington, and with it, an overhaul of a shattered franchise.
It wasn’t their worst loss—that was probably Chicago or maybe the second Giants game—and it wasn’t at all surprising. Miami is quite good and Washington is not. At all.
But there was nothing redeeming about this defeat. Nothing. The weather was bad, Sam Howell was hardly sharp, Brian Robinson hurt his hamstring, and the defense continued on their downward spiral of embarrassment.
In a Commanders organization with a million questions, Sunday’s game revealed one truth to even the most devoted fans: the current structure is broken and needs to be torn down and replaced.
The Dolphins have explosive players and brilliant schematics that put those players in position to succeed.
Washington has, well, what exactly?
Podcasts & videos
️Yes, @michaelpinRVA and I know the notion that if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. Problem: podcasts require talking, and we needed to discuss the Commanders' latest blowout loss. We worked it out. https://t.co/vt6SL4WW6W— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) December 4, 2023
With @Sam4TR as we dig into the Commanders after another ugly loss. What we saw from Miami that can help Washington going forward. How schemes can help elevate. More. @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/bZ3n4EP13O— John Keim (@john_keim) December 4, 2023
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders during their Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
NFC East links
In hindsight, much of this season has felt like borrowed time for the Philadelphia Eagles.
A string of thrilling rallies and nail-biting victories had demonstrated resilience and confidence, yes, but it had also revealed the frailties that generate the need for rallies. The offense starts slow. The defense has holes, particularly in the defensive backfield. Deficits are built. Heroics are needed. Those comebacks built toughness, yes. The risk was that these things tend to even out and eventually the Eagles might face a team that they could not outduel, one that would not bend to the Eagles’ considerable will.
On Sunday, they did, in the form of a familiar nemesis, the San Francisco 49ers, who dominated the Eagles, 42-19. The loss ended some incredible streaks for the Eagles — they had won five straight games when trailing by at least 10 points and were 5-0 entering the game when trailing at halftime in 2023. But the Eagles defense, which had been suspect for parts of the season, and had been gashed last week by the Buffalo Bills, simply could not handle the 49ers’ parade of name-brand weapons. Play after play went to George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. Tackles were missed, defenders left behind to give chase.
The Eagles Blow The Big Dom Game, Piss Down Their Leg And Get Thoroughly Smacked Around By The 49ers
The Eagles just pissed down their leg, shit in their pants, forgot how to play football for the next 45 minutes, and wasted a perfect opportunity to lock up the #1 seed for the playoffs. Realistically they were never going to go undefeated against Kansas City, Buffalo and San Francisco. But goddamn does this one feel like the absolute worst one of them to lose. The 1-seed is obviously still in play, but now it’s going to be an all out war in the NFC. They had a chance to take it. They had a chance to put their foot on San Francisco and Dallas’ throat. Everything we saw in that 1st quarter led you to believe they were going to do it. And then the defense went to absolute shit and couldn’t make a single tackle.
Deebo Samuel was shot out of a Cannon pic.twitter.com/kEXXaWnFrt— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 3, 2023
They gave up a touchdown on 4 straight drives. Deebo Samuel had 3 touchdowns himself. He talked so much shit all offseason. He talked so much shit leading up to the game this week. And he backed up every single word of it. The Eagles ought to be embarrassed. This defense ought to have their dicks tucked between their legs for the next 6 days.
Washington Post (paywall)
Greenlaw took a left-handed swipe at Dom DiSandro, the chief security officer for the Eagles, after a rugged third-quarter tackle of wide receiver DeVonta Smith that drew a penalty.
The officials also ordered DiSandro to leave the Eagles’ sideline. He received an ovation from the home crowd.
49ers' Dre Greenlaw has been disqualified from tonight's game after this incident on the Eagles sideline. pic.twitter.com/2N4W17N8u9— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 3, 2023
“That’s why I tried my hardest not to lose my mind and embarrass myself too bad,” 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “I didn’t get to see it all from where I’m at. But when I started hearing people explain it to me and stuff, I just can’t believe someone not involved in a football game can taunt our players like that and put their hands in our guy’s face. From what I was told, Dre did it back to him. And I was told that he kind of mashed him in the face a little bit. So he got ejected.
“But it was a very frustrating play. I’ve got to watch it to have a true opinion on it. But I loved how we rallied after it.”
The episode occurred with the 49ers leading 21-6. Greenlaw slammed Smith to the ground along the Eagles’ sideline following a catch by Smith, drawing a penalty for unnecessary roughness.
The Eagles objected to the hit by Greenlaw, leading to a confrontation along the sideline. Greenlaw reached out with his left hand and appeared to make light contact with DiSandro’s face before order was restored.