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Stats & Snaps: Week 13 Commanders vs Dolphins

What did we do differently?

Miami Dolphins v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In the aftermath of the Commanders’ second embarrassing loss in a row on Thanksgiving Day, we are told that Ron Rivera decided the team needed to do things differently on defense. The coach in chief parted ways with long time defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, and took charge of the defense himself.

The critical weakness that has bedevilled the defense all season has been vulnerability to explosive plays, and explosive passing plays in particular. Against the most explosive passing offense in the NFL, Rivera’s new plan appears to have involved isolating an overdrafted rookie nickelback against the league’s primiere deep threat without any safety help.

Let’s see how that went, shall we?

SOME STATISTICS

Heading into this game, Miami’s offense was tied with Minnesota’s for 2nd most explosive passing plays, with 71 completions of 16 or more yards. They were also tied with Detroit for most touchdowns on explosive passing plays, with 11 such TDs in 11 games.

Meanwhile, Washington’s defense was all alone in the lead in explosive passing plays allowed (73, next highest Chargers at 67). They had also allowed 17 TDs on explosive passing plays which put them a full 7 TDs ahead of the Falcons in second place.

This game had the makings of the perfect storm as one of the league’s most explosive passing attacks headed into town to face the league’s most bomb-riddled passing defense. Would Ron Rivera’s mid-week adjustments to the coverage schemes help to plug the gaps in Washington’s leaky secondary?

Not so much. Tua Tagovailoa had his way with the Commanders’s secondary, completing 7 passes of 16 or more yards, including Tyreek Hill touchdowns receptions of 60 and 78 yards, for a total of 229 yards.

It is not as if the Commanders did not know who they were facing. Heading into Sunday’s game, Tyreek Hill was averaging 120 receiving yards per game, which had him on pace for season total of 2,046 receiving yards, which would make him the first receiver ever with more than 2,000 receiving yards. Surprisingly, Hill’s two touchdown receptions found him isolated in single man coverage. It takes a special kind of football mind to be caught off guard by the expected.

After playing against Ron Rivera’s retooled defense, Hill is now on pace to smash the single season receiving record with 2,098 receiving yards. Sticklers may point out that Hill has the benefit of one more regular season game than current record holder Calvin Johnson at 1,964 rec yards. In fact, Hill is currently averaging 123.4 yards per game, which puts him ahead of Johnson’s record pace of 122.75 yards per game. So, thanks to the Commanders, he is now on pace to break Johnson’s single season receiving record, even when adjusting for the longer season.

For the third week in a row, the Commanders’ opponents have scored over 30 points. And for the third week in a row, the opponents’ score wasn’t entirely the fault of the defense.

Sam Howell set a new milestone in his short pro career on Sunday by throwing a pick six for the third week in a row. Commanders’ fans may be relieved to learn that he did not set an NFL record. The record for consecutive games throwing a pick six is 4, set by Matt Schaub in his rookie season with the Texans.

In fact, 11 other QBs have thrown pick sixes in 3 consecutive games since 1970, the earliest that Pro Football Reference supports streak searches. Howell’s third consecutive game with a pick six puts him in good company, alongside Tom Brady (7x SB Champ), Peyton Manning (HoF), John Elway (HoF), Matt Stafford (SB Champion) and Norm Snead (4x Pro Bowl). Howell’s streak is still active, so it remains possible for him to tie and even break the record before the season is finished.

With the loss to Miami, the Commanders achieved a critical milestone for the season. At 4-9, it is now mathematically impossible for them to avoid a losing season.

The loss also represents an important milestone for Ron Rivera’s coaching career. Rivera has not had a winning season as head coach since 2017. In my Offseason Skeptic article on head coaches, I observed that Rex Ryan is the only NFL head coach to have a continuous streak of 6 non-winning seasons in the salary cap era. The loss to Miami guarantees that Rivera will not become the first cap-era head coach to break a 5-season non-winning streak. In order to tie Ryan’s record of six continuous, complete non-winning seasons, he will now just need to keep his job for the remainder of the season. Lord have mercy on the team that gives him an opportunity to break the record.

NFL: DEC 03 Dolphins at Commanders Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

Q1

9:37, 3rd and 2 at MIA 22, Tua Tagovailoa completion deep left to Tyreek Hill for 78 yard touchdown, EPA -7.44

1:01, 1st and 10 from WAS 38, Sam Howell pass short right intended for Jahan Dotson is intercepted by Andrew Van Ginkel at WAS 33 and returned for a touchdown, EPA -8.47

Q2

14:18, 2nd and 16 at WAS 34, Brian Robinson right end for 29 yards, EPA 2.88

12:43, 3rd and 7 at MIA 34, Sam Howell complete deep right to Curtis Samuel for 33 yards, EPA 4.69

9:22, 3rd and 7 at MIA 40, Tua Tagovailoa completion deep right to Tyreek Hill for 60 yard touchdown, EPA -6.44

1:33, 3rd and 12 at WAS 20, Tua Tagovailoa complete short middle to Jaylen Waddle for 16 yards, EPA -3.41

Q3

10:30, 2nd and 7 from WAS 22, Tua Tagovailoa pass complete short middle to Julian Hill for 18 yards, EPA -2.51

4:39, 4th and 3 from MIA 13, Sam Howell scramble for 13 yard touchdown, EPA 4.33

Q4

14:20, 4th and 8 from MIA 35, Joey Slye 53 yard field goal attempt no good, EPA -2.77

4:37, 4th and 1 from WAS 14, Jeff Wilson right tackle for 6 yards, EPA -2.71

2:00, 4th and 2 at WAS 2, De’Von Achane left end for 2 yard touchdown, EPA -3.75

STATS AND SNAPS – OFFENSE

Quarterback

This week saw the first snaps by someone other than Sam Howell at QB this season. Howell had his second worst game for the Commanders, completing a season low 52.2% of passes for a season low 127 yards (also season low 5.52 yds/attempt), 0 TDs, 1 pick 6 and taking 3 sacks for 20 yards. He did run 4 times for 21 yards and 2 TDs.

His total QBR of 19.6 was the second lowest of his career. Remarkably, though, it was only the 23rd lowest out of 26 starting QBs in Week 13. He was ahead of 2022 1st overall pick Bryce Young (QBR 18.9), 2nd overall pick C.J. Stroud (QBR 17.1) and 4th round hero Bailey Zappe (QBR 16.2).

Howell was pressured 9 times according to Pro Football Reference. His pressure rate of 31% of dropbacks was the 3rd highest this season. His average time to throw of 3.27 sec was the highest of his career by a fair margin (2nd highest: 3.02 against Atlanta). He made 4 uncatchable throws, to tie for his second highest bad throw rate (19%) with the Atlanta game.

The grumblings about Howell on Hogs Haven comment boards have been increasing since he has hit a rough patch over the past 3 games. The truth is, even the best QBs tend to struggle at times in their first year starting. Howell’s performance against Miami was the worst of his career to date, and featured his third pick six in as many weeks.

To put Howell’s performance in his first season as the starter in perspective, I have been comparing each game to the equivalent start by three of the great QBs of the modern era (Manning, Brees, Brady) and other notable signal callers. This week Manning and Brady join some other QBs who have thrown pick sixes in three consecutive weeks.

Howell’s game against Miami was not good, but it pretty similar to the 14th start by 13-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.

For those fans ready to give up on Howell because he has thrown pick sixes in three consecutive games, consider the list of other QBs who have done the same. Howell’s game was practically identical to Hall of Famer John Elway’s 14th start, except for the 2 rushing TDs. Peyton Manning, Matt Stafford and Redskins great Norm Snead had better games in their 14th starts. But Tom Brady and Elway were not appreciably better.

Offensive Line

Trent Scott and Nick Gates got to play three snaps this week while regular starters Chris Paul and Tyler Larsen took breathers. Cornelius Lucas played three snaps as a second LT in max protection.

Pass Protection

This week a commenter on Hogs Haven called the offensive line a bunch of bums. With all due respect, that’s completely unfair. Bums get paid a lot less than Washington’s players to do what they do.

According to PFF, the Commanders’ offensive line gave up 14 pressures, including 3 sacks. While 14 pressures allowed is certainly an improvement over the season high of 24 set last week in Dallas, 4 of Washington’s starting offensive linemen have allowed more pressures in the last 2 games than Philadelphia center Jason Kelce has allowed all season (Chris Paul 10, Andrew Wylie 8, Tyler Larsen 8, Charles Leno 7).

The 14 pressures allowed were distributed as follows:

Charles Leno: 4 hurries, 1 QB hit

Chris Paul: 3 hurries, 1 sack

Andrew Wylie: 1 hurry, 2 sacks

Tyler Larsen: 1 hurry, 1 QB hit

Sam Cosmi: 0 pressures

Run Blocking

Yards before contact by running backs provides a measure of how well the OL is clearing running lanes. The league average is around 2.5 yards before contact per rushing attempt. According to PFF, Washington’s most utilized rusher Antonio Gibson averaged just 0.7 YBC/Att. Brian Robinson averaged 3.3 YBC/Att and Chris Rodriguez averaged 2.0 YBC/Att. While the run blocking seems to have improved over last week’s shellacking in Dallas, as a group, the Commanders’ backs were still below average in running room.

Running Backs

Brian Robinson left the game with a hamstring injury on the first drive of the second quarter. Nevertheless, he was the Commanders’ rushing leader with 53 yards on 7 attempts with 3 broken tackles. His rushing average of 7.57 yards per attempt set a new career high. He was not targeted as a receiver.

Antonio Gibson had 10 rushing attempts for 35 yards (3.5 Y/A), with 3 broken tackles and 1 fumble recovered by Washington. He also caught 4/5 passing targets for 37 yards, making him Washington’s second leading receiver last week.

Chris Rodgriguez had 7 carries for 29 yards (4.14 Y/A) with 1 broken tackle. He was not targeted as a receiver.

Wide Receivers

For the second week in a row, Curtis Samuel led Washington in receiving yards, catching 4/5 targets (80%) for 65 yards.

Jahan Dotson was second among the WR with 2 catches for 23 yards, but only caught 40% of the passes thrown his way and dropped 1. Through Week 14 his catch rate of 59.5% ranks second last out of 13 Commanders with at least 1 passing target.

Terry McLaurin seems to have been sucked into the vortex of despair that is enveloping the team. He was targeted 3 times and failed to make a catch. Over the past 4 games he has been targeted 29 times and made 13 receptions (45% catch rate) for 126 yards (4.3 yards/target) and 0 TDs.

Dyami Brown was targeted once and made 1 reception for 0 yards.

Tight Ends

Terry McLaurin wasn’t the only Commanders’ who disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle against Miami. Cole Turner led the group by catching 1 target for 2 yards. Logan Thomas and John Bates had 1 target apiece with no receptions.

STATS AND SNAPS - DEFENSE

Defensive Line

DEs

The DEs seem to have gone missing with the TEs and Terry. K.J. Henry made 2 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Casey Toohill had 1 tackle for a loss of 6 yards on a screen pass. Andre Jones had 1 assisted tackle. Jalen Harris really got after it with 1 solo tackle.

DTs

Daron Payne led the DTs with 2 solo tackles and 1 assist with 1 tackle for loss and 1 missed tackle. Jonathan Allen had 1 solo tackle, 1 missed tackle and 1 QB hit. John Ridgeway made 1 solo tackle.

Phidarian Mathis did not record a defensive stat.

Linebackers

Cody Barton led the Commanders in tackling with 5 solo tackles and 6 assists. He was targeted once in coverage, allowing a 6 yard completion.

Jamin Davis had 5 solo tackles, 3 assists, 2 tackles for loss and 1 pass broken up. He was targeted 4 times in coverage, allowing 2 receptions for 9 yards, his lowest receiving total allowed since Week 5.

Khaleke Hudson had 3 solo tackles and 1 assist, while missing 2 tackles. He blitzed once and had a QB knockdown. He had 1 target in coverage and allowed 1 reception for 21 yards.

Cornerbacks

Coverage Alignments

Kendall Fuller played 59 snaps at boundary corner and 2 in the box. BSJ spent 55 snaps out wide, 4 in the box, 1 at slot CB and 1 on the DL. Quan Martin played 17 snaps at slot CB, 10 lined up in the box, 2 at free safety and 1 on the DL. Danny Johnson played all 6 snaps covering the slot.

Coverage Performance

It is hard to imagine how the Commanders’ CBs could have played any worse. One can only imagine whether the Dolphins would have completed any fewer passes if they had simple stood on the sidelines.

Kendall Fuller made 6 solo tackles and 1 assist. He was targeted 3 times in coverage and allowed 2 receptions for 63 yards and 1 TD (opposing passer rating 149.3). Ouch!

Benajmin St-Juste made 2 solo tackles. He had 2 targets in coverage and allowed 2 receptions for 21 yards (opposing passer rating 110.4). He was also penalized 16 yards for pass interference. Meh.

Quan Martin made 5 solo tackles and 2 assists with 1 tackle for loss and 2 missed tackles. He was targeted 7 times in coverage and gave up 7 receptions for 120 yards and 1 TD (opposing passer rating 158.3). Yikes!

Danny Johnson failed to record a defensive stat. This was by far the best performance of any of the Commanders’ CBs. This season, however, he has allowed receptions on 72.7% of targets and has an opposing passer rating of 143.4.

Safeties

Coverage Alignments

Kam Curl played 33 snaps at free safety, 22 in the box, 3 at slot CB, 2 at boundary CB, and 1 on the DL. Percy Butler played 41 snaps at free safety, 11 in the box, 5 at slot CB and 2 at boundary CB. Terrell Burgess played his 2nd and 3rd defensive snaps this season at free safety.

Defense

Kam Curl made 4 solo tackles and missed 2 tackles. In coverage, he was targeted twice and allowed 1 reception for 20 yards (opposing passer rating 85.4). Percy Butler made 3 solo tackles and 2 assists with 2 missed tackles. In coverage, he was targeted 3 times and allowed 1 reception for 13 yards, with 1 pass breakup (opposing passer rating 47.9).

Terrell Burgess only played 2 defensive snaps and recorded 2 solo tackles. At that rate, if he had played 6 defensive snaps, he would have led the team in tackling. He was also targeted once in coverage and allowed a reception for 16 yards. That is a lot of action for just 2 snaps.


STATS AND SNAPS – SPECIAL TEAMS

Joey Slye was 1/1 on extra point but missed a field goal from 53 yards. He has made 77.3% of field goals this season, the lowest success rate of his career. He ranks 29th in field goal percentage among kickers with at least 10 attempts.

Tress Way punted 5 times for 214 yards (42.8 yd/punt) with just 7 return yards for a net average of 41.4 yards per punt. He landed 2/5 punts (40%) inside the Dolphins’ 20 yard line.

All 8 of Miami’s kickoffs went for touchbacks, so Byron Pringle didn’t have any returns.

Jamison Crowder returned 1 punt for 11 yards. Believe it or not, his season average is down to 7.52 yards per return. He currently trails Dax Milne’s 2022 punt return average by 0.26 yards per return.

Joshua Pryor and Dyami Brown made 1 tackle apiece in special teams coverage. Terrell Burgess had 1 tackle assist.

Dyami Brown was penalized 10 yards for holding on special teams. Christian Holmes drew an offsides call for 5 yards.


Poll

Does the Commanders’ 9th loss change your outlook for the remainder of the season?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Yes, I would now like to see them lose out for better draft position
    (31 votes)
  • 21%
    No, I was cheering the tank prior to Week 13
    (26 votes)
  • 33%
    No, I only care about Sam Howell’s development
    (41 votes)
  • 0%
    No, I remain hopeful that Rivera can turn it around
    (0 votes)
  • 19%
    No, winning is the only thing that matters, even if it’s just to finish 5-12 instead of 4-13
    (24 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now