The NFL preseason’s greatest winning streak ended on Monday.
The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Washington Commanders, 29-28, snapping their NFL-record run of 24 consecutive preseason victories on the strength of a Joey Slye 49-yard field goal.
Baltimore held a 28-20 lead with most of the fourth quarter to play, but Washington’s Jake Fromm rallied the Commanders, leading a touchdown drive with just more than four minutes to play before driving his squad into position for Slye’s game-winner.
Preseason or not, it was a celebrated win for the Commanders and their new ownership.
I know it’s only preseason but the @Commanders victory over the Ravens to end their NFL preseason win streak was a lot of fun for Commanders fans!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) August 22, 2023
Monday’s loss marks the first time John Harbaugh’s squad has fallen in the preseason since Sept. 3, 2015, against the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s really not a real game, but at the same time whatever team you’re on, you want to win,” Howell said. “Especially knowing what they had on the other side with their little streak.”
The back-and-forth thriller featured five lead changes and led Ravens coach John Harbaugh to rebuke those who call preseason football meaningless.
“You never played the game,” Harbaugh said of the critics. “You never were out there in a preseason game; you never were fighting for a spot on the field. And yet you have the audacity to say that the effort that somebody puts into that, to fight and win a game like that, is meaningless.
“I can’t respect anybody that says that — because of the effort these guys put into it. And that’s why I’m so proud of these guys, for the way they fought. It doesn’t matter, win or loss. It matters the way they went about their business. And I’m proud of that and always will be.”
Last week, Washington guard Sam Cosmi mocked Baltimore’s August dominance. “It’s a stupid record,” he told NBC Sports Washington.
Cosmi, who celebrated one Commanders touchdown by performing The Griddy in the end zone, declined to talk to reporters in the locker room.
Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson reveled in beating the regional rival Ravens, who play 29 miles up the interstate.
“I was sitting in bed watching ESPN all day, and all you could hear about is this streak, the streak,” Dotson said. “So I feel like we just had the biggest preseason W in history. It was definitely pretty cool knowing what they had on the line that we could end that.”
Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin left Monday night’s Week 2 preseason game against the Ravens after suffering an injury to his right big toe, but X-rays were negative, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reported.
McLaurin was injured shortly before halftime and left with trainers to the locker room before intermission. He was ruled out for the second half, but it’s unlikely he would have played regardless.
McLaurin had three receptions for 39 yards during the first half, with his longest catch going for 13 yards.
Kicker Joey Slye ended the NFL’s longest stretch of preseason wins with a 49-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining for the come-from-behind win.
More significant: Starting quarterback Sam Howell put on a show, giving hope that maybe, just maybe, he can develop into the quarterback Washington has been seeking for years.
“There’s a lot of pressure, obviously, and we know how important the quarterback position is in the league and how important it is in this area,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ve been looking for one and we have an opportunity to have a guy that has a chance to be a really good football player for us.”
That’s the good news.
The bad news? Terry McLaurin suffered an injury.
Washington’s leading wide receiver was ruled out with a toe injury after he hobbled off the field late in the second quarter following a 13-yard reception over the middle. Rivera said X-rays were negative and that McLaurin will be “treated day by day.”
McLaurin’s foot appeared to bend awkwardly as he was tackled by linebacker Kristian Welch. He grimaced as he got to his feet, then limped off the field and threw his right shoe in frustration. He was examined by trainers behind the bench before walking back to the locker room.
The mobile Howell ran as needed, picking up 17 yards on three attempts. In isolation, with the bar set as a second-year quarterback with one regular-season start prepping for Week 1 against Arizona, Howell quickly cleared any expectations — whether he agreed or not.
“I thought it was all right,” Howell said during the ESPN telecast. “I thought we did good things. I thought there were things we could have done a better job — I could have done a better job. … I’m proud of my guys. They kept fighting and put some good drives together.”
Two consecutive plays on Washington’s opening possession encapsulated Howell’s current level.
Howell took an unnecessary sack on second-and-2 from Washington’s 43 after holding the ball far too long. It looked like a Carson Wentz play from last season, as both quarterbacks believe they can strike gold on any play. My biggest worry with Howell is this competitive stubbornness,
Or maybe it’s learned behavior. In practice, coaches allow plays to continue even when it’s clear the pass rush would have ended all dramatics. Actual defenders aren’t about that. Howell was also sacked on the final drive of the half.
“I took two bad sacks, which were my fault,” Howell said on the broadcast.
Wentz never learned to shake the habit. Howell has time.
Washington Commanders tight end Cole Turner continued his strong preseason with a good showing alongside quarterback Sam Howell in Monday night’s contest against the Baltimore Ravens.
Perhaps the most important element of Turner’s showing is the evident chemistry he has with Howell, shown best by a 16-yard gain on 3rd and 15 in which he finished through contact in a tight window, helping extend Washington’s opening drive that ended in a field goal.
After the third down conversion, ESPN analyst and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman compared Turner to Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce for playing a similar role under offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who held the same role across five years for the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
Dud: RB Chris Rodriguez Jr.
I don’t want to pick on Chris Rodriguez Jr. here. He has been outstanding since being drafted in April. And he had another good night running the football, averaging over six yards per rushing attempt. But when you look back at Rodriguez’s night, what stands out? The fumble. I believe Rodriguez’s spot on the 53-man roster is secure, but you can’t fumble in a preseason game. Rodriguez knows this, and he doesn’t have a history of fumbling.
Stud: QB Jake Fromm
Jake Fromm had a chance to make history Monday night by ending the Ravens’ record preseason winning streak. How did he respond? By leading two fourth-quarter scoring drives in which he made multiple plays with his arms and legs. We still aren’t sure if he’s done enough to earn a roster spot, but that all comes to the coaches determining if they want to keep two or three quarterbacks.
Mental mistakes hurt both sides of the ball.
The Ravens put together some impressive moments, which is why it took some last-minute heroics for the Commanders to pull off a win, but they also benefitted greatly from Washington’s self-imposed errors.
Washington had fewer penalties than Baltimore, but they were far more detrimental to the team’s success. Rachad Wildgoose’s defensive pass interference call, for example, put the Ravens at the Commanders’ 7-yard line, which allowed them to score one play later. A neutral zone infraction by Isaiah Mack gave the Ravens a fresh set of downs on fourth-and-3 at the Commanders’ 7-yard line.
The offense wasn’t blameless, either. A holding call on Saahdiq Charles took the wind out of the Commanders’ second drive, which ultimately ended with a punt. Howell admitted both the sacks he took were his fault, and while he did recover from them, it put the offense in a hole.
Washington still won, but it will need to clean up its gaffes before the season opener in a few weeks.
Washington’s defense had a difficult time defending the pass for much of the night, allowing Baltimore quarterbacks Josh Johnson and Anthony Brown to complete 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards and four touchdowns ... but also two interceptions, although one was an end-of-game heave from Brown to rookie defensive back Kendall Smith.
Against the run, the Commanders allowed 149 yards on 27 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per attempt, a number that Rivera and staff will hope is much smaller during the regular season.
The Commanders, who didn’t play a majority of their first-team defense, saw rookie Jartavius Martin shine, reeling in a difficult interception and being credited with an additional pass defended.
First-round cornerback Emmanuel Forbes had a key tackle to stop an outside rush attempt on 3rd and 1, but also allowed a lengthy completion to Ravens first-round receiver Zay Flowers.
Elsewhere, three defenders - linebacker David Mayo, cornerback Rachad Wildgoose and safety Percy Butler - tied for the team lead with four tackles.
Up front, the Commanders received a quarterback hit from Benning Potoa’e and a tackle for loss from seventh-round rookie Andre Jones Jr., who’s been a noticeable standout this summer.
In all, Washington’s defense provided a few signs of encouragement, especially with its draftees, but also has work to do down the depth chart.
Examining the latest Commanders news and rumors from around the media.
There was no way Josh Harris was going to miss the first home game since his ownership group bought the Washington Commanders for a record $6.05 billion. He’s been basking in the glory of rescuing the franchise from Dan Snyder’s reign of terror and the players marked the occasion by snapping the longest-ever preseason unbeaten run in NFL history for good measure.
Harris did the rounds, greeting coaches, players, and Washington alumni. He also spent time in the booth with Troy Aikman and Joe Buck of ESPN, leading to a rather awkward handshake that went viral.
When speaking about how Harris is finding life as an NFL owner, the billionaire stated via Nicki Jhabvala from the Washington Post that he’s still within the bedding-in period and is learning how things work over time. But it’s clear that the new owner is feeling an enormous sense of anticipation about what this talented team might be able to accomplish next season.
“I’m watching, I’m learning. … It’s a long season, but we’re optimistic. And watching Sam out there…. I have a lot of faith in Sam and the team.”
- Josh Harris via X/Twitter
Podcasts & videos
Episode 639 - The streak is over! Postgame pod for #Commanders-#Ravens. Sam Howell was good. Again. In-depth analysis of his performance & much more.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) August 22, 2023
I also talk #Nats extending Mike Rizzo & Davey Martinez & John Angelos' ridiculous comments to @NYTimes.https://t.co/bOAbikUbFm
HTTR4LIFE: Chris Rodriguez: First hit NEVER Brings Him Down | Watchin’ All-22 Film With Phil | Commanders
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Preseason: Sam Howell Sharp on 3 Scoring Drives and Quan Martin Bounces Back
Check out the best photos from the Washington Commanders’ second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.
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Bleeding Green Nation
An imperfect 10
It’s only preseason but the defense looks like ass
There have been a few individual bright spots on defense. But as a whole, the level of concern has not lowered from the beginning of camp.
Zach Cunningham wasn’t on the team two weeks ago, on Thursday he both started and played in the second half, which says a little bit about him and a lot about the state of the Eagles linebackers. Myles Jack was with the first team on his first day of practice, spent the first half against the Browns on the bench, then retired. In three weeks Nicholas Morrow has gone from starter to bubble to top backup? Christian Elliss was always favored to make the team for special teams, now he’s got a real chance to start.
K’Von Wallace started and played into the fourth quarter, which is the kind of run you give a second year player or a guy on the bubble, not the 4th year 3rd safety in a defense that will be running some three safety personnel groupings. Wallace, Terrell Edmunds, Justin Evans, and Sydney Brown all rotated over the first eight possessions.
Howie Roseman has yet to make a trade in camp. That may need to change.
NFL league links
Fantasy football analysis continues to grow and reach new heights every year. But so much of the content focuses on player profiles, players changing teams or offensive trends from the prior season. If there is one area that goes under the radar, it’s the impact a new play-caller can have on an offense.
Besides the quarterback, perhaps nothing influences an offense more than the play-caller. Which means identifying how one might change with a new hire — and how the players might be affected — can offer a critical edge in rankings, projections and drafts. Let’s dive in.
The jury is still out on exactly what an Eric Bieniemy offense looks like, since it was Andy Reid calling the plays during Bieniemy’s five seasons as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, but it seems reasonable to expect an uptick in passing in Washington with Bieniemy as OC. Last year, the Chiefs threw on 67 percent of their plays, the third highest rate in the NFL, per PFF. Washington was below league average at just 56 percent. Bieniemy also comes from one of the most creative offenses in the league. More passing — from newly christened starter Sam Howell — paired with some more creativity could once again lift Terry McLaurin.
Dak Prescott thrived in Kellen Moore’s system. He finished third, first and eighth among QBs in fantasy PPG in the first three years under Moore. Now, head coach Mike McCarthy will be calling plays. While Prescott and others in Dallas have said the offense retainselements of the previous offense, and while offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer says he wants to play “fast,” we cannot ignore McCarthy’s track record as a play-caller for the Packers. Even though he was working with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, McCarthy’s offenses failed to pass at the same rate that the Cowboys did under Moore. There were many years under McCarthy that the Packers threw at a league-average rate — or below. Moore’s offenses, by contrast, ranked 10th or better in pass attempts in his first three years on the job. The offense is funneled enough that top weapons such as CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard will be fine, but the Cowboys’ signal-caller could definitely lose some volume.