Washington Post (paywall)
“It just forces everybody to look in the mirror and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” star wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. “They came in here, and they whooped us.”
He added: “You never want to come out and put on that kind of showing. That’s not the team that we are. But if we want to make sure that’s not who we are, we have to come back better next week.”
“We’re all culpable,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “That’s what I told the guys in there: We’re all culpable.”
Spread the culpability around, then, and get a rare result. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, here’s the list of Washington home losses worse than this one: 45-10 against Kansas City in 2013 and 45-10 against San Francisco in 1998.
“You’re going to have tough days at the office,” McLaurin said. “Some uglier than others.”
on Daron Payne’s bat-down of an Allen fourth-down pass — this was still a game, just 16-0 despite Buffalo’s visceral and statistical dominance.
Given the resilience this team had shown — and congratulated itself about — in overcoming deficits in the first two weeks, it wasn’t crazy to suggest the Commanders, despite it all, were still in the game. Every play mattered. They were kind of getting killed but were down only two scores.
Then on first down from their 37, Howell found Gibson with a short pass. Bills cornerback Taron Johnson hit Gibson. And Gibson fumbled. That’s two lost fumbles in three games this year, bringing back memories of the six fumbles Gibson had in 2021.
Again, we don’t yet have this team’s full identity. But it’s obvious that against the NFL’s best teams, it’s not to the point where it can overcome straight-up handing the ball to the opponent.
Sunday’s blowout loss proved to be a wake-up call, a reminder of how far the Commanders still have to go on and off the field before the franchise can claim they’re truly back in the way that people remember.
The Commanders (2-1) got their answers, and the results weren’t pretty. They were a garbage time, 51-yard field goal away from suffering their worst shutout loss since 2001. And by an unofficial estimate, the stands looked to be split 70-30 in favor of Buffalo’s fans.
High on the list of corrections for Rivera and Co. will be figuring out how to help Howell. The second-year quarterback had, by far, his worst game as a pro: He was sacked nine times, threw four interceptions and had a passer rating of just 41.5. Through three games, Howell has been sacked 19 times — tied for the second-most to start the season since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to Stathead.
Washington could look to get its rushing attack involved sooner to ease the burden on Howell. Running back Brian Robinson Jr. was again effective on the ground Sunday as he rushed for 70 yards on 10 carries. But the Commanders had just 13 rushing attempts total. It’s hard to call the run after falling behind as quickly as Washington did, too.
Terry McLaurin agreed.
“It just forces everyone to look in the mirror and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the wide receiver said. “They came in here and they whooped us.”
Washington Post (paywall)
There were few words and fewer silver linings to take from such a showing. There was no way to avoid the physical soreness or the mental anguish of such a bad loss.
“We played about as bad as we could play,” Howell said after the game.
Howell was sacked nine times and intercepted four times. He didn’t throw a single touchdown pass, and the Commanders didn’t get on the board until the final minute, when kicker Joey Slye booted a 51-yard field goal to spare them their first shutout loss since 2019.
It was actually worse.
Of Washington’s first 11 plays, three resulted in sacks, and another was an interception.
The Bills hit Howell 15 times and pressured him on a whopping 69.2 percent (27 of 39) of his dropbacks, according to Next Gen Stats. And Buffalo, which pushed back Washington’s offensive line with ease at times, also seemed to anticipate many of Howell’s throws, leading to picks by four different defenders.
The Athletic (paywall)
“It’s football,” head coach Ron Rivera said deep into his postgame news conference. “It’s going to happen. There aren’t a lot of guys that are going to go out there and always have success. … That’s why we got to stick to it.”
But the reasons behind the offensive debacle — a QB roller coaster and a leaky O-line (along with an unacceptable five turnovers) — were red flags months back. They poked their heads out for stretches in the first two games, but the defense, Howell’s grit and meh opposition (though props to the Cardinals for beating the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3) put those results in the win column.
With five turnovers — four off Howell interceptions — nine sacks allowed, two early red zone visits resulting in zero points and the defense not close to saving the day, this showing went in the trash bin.
“Missed opportunities,” Rivera lamented when asked where Howell and the offense went wrong. “That’s the bottom line. … You can’t turn the ball over, which we did. If you lose the turnover battle like that, you’re going to get beat.”
Playing in his fourth career start amid wet conditions, gray skies and a sellout crowd — unofficially, the blue, white and Zubaz-wearing Buffalo fans had the slight majority in attendance and the clear edge in noise — Howell looked ready for the task early. Trailing 3-0, Howell moved Washington to Buffalo’s 21-yard line after completions of 10 and 21 yards. The next three plays set the gloomy tone.
Howell, who has a penchant for holding the ball too long as pressure nears, was sacked for losses of 8 and 1. On third-and-19, his pass over the middle intended for Dyami Brown landed in the hands of Bills linebacker Terrel Bernard.
“It looks like I didn’t even play today: all-white jersey, not even dirty,” said safety Micah Hyde, who had one of four interceptions of Sam Howell. “The guys up front were just getting after the quarterback. It was just awesome to see.”
The Bills (2-1) have outscored opponents 75-13 since losing at the New York Jets in overtime in Week 1. This would’ve been a shutout if not for the Commanders kicking a 51-yard field goal with 46 seconds left.
Allen threw and ran for a touchdown and never got sacked. He was 20 of 32 with 218 yards passing, including a 35-yard TD pass to Gabe Davis, and added a 10-yard scamper into the end zone among his 46 yards rushing.
“It’s easy to play the game when your defense comes up for you like that and puts you in good situations,” said Allen, who criticized himself for an interception on third-and-20 that effectively functioned as a long punt. “Our offense did what we had to do, but our defense balled out.”
The Athletic (paywall)
There is, supposedly, a magic button a team can push after getting its lunch money taken like that, and poof, all is forgiven and forgotten. On to Week 4.
Except … this was not your run-of-the-mill loss. And these are human beings.
This wasn’t getting beat; this was getting pantsed.
And, guess what? The Eagles are next. In Philly. And after watching this tape, they’ll be salivating. Jalen Hurts and that defense will be looking to hang 50 on Washington. How will the Commanders respond?
“That’s exactly what I told them: ‘How are we going to react?’” Ron Rivera said. “How are we going to handle it? And that’s what I’m looking for, now. Now we’ve got to find out just how tough we really are. Are we mentally tough? Are we physically tough enough to get through it? Winning masks a lot of things. The bare truth is out there right now.
“We know, exactly, based on the tape, what happened. We’ll be able to sit and talk and get it corrected, I believe. I believe if we approach it the right way, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity going forward.”
Except, Howell will not make it to the bye week if he continues getting sacked like this. He’s taken 19 (!!!) sacks in three games, the most any team has allowed through three games of a season since the 2005 Texans. Some of them are on him, some are on the line. But it’s got to get fixed. Now.
Podcasts & videos
Washington Commanders Sam Howell Learns Hard Lessons Leading Team Through Week 3 Loss
Check out the best shots from the Washington Commanders’ Week 1 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
NFC East links
Blogging the Boys
The highs and lows from Week 3 for the Dallas Cowboys.
If the Arizona Cardinals 28-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys wasn’t the upset of the week, it’s certainly in the running. This was as embarrassing and disappointing a loss as the Cowboys have had in quite some time.
There was no resemblance to the team we had seen play against the Giants and Jets in the first two weeks of the season to the one who played Sunday afternoon against the Arizona Cardinals. The Dallas Cowboys completely got beat physically and were outplayed by an inferior opponent. Offensively they could never really get anything going, defensively they gave up way too many big plays and touchdowns, and on special teams penalties negated a big return from KaVontae Turpin. This team is better than that, at least that’s what we thought.
The Cowboys redzone worries continue on offense where they blew multiple opportunities again this week. The run defense was non-existent in the first half, something they can’t blame on the loss of Trevon Diggs. The Cardinals exposed some serious cracks within this team, and the coaching staff needs to figure out a way to repair it.
Blogging the Boys
Things did not go according to play. At all.
7. Already missing Diggs
Everyone is excited about second-year corner DaRon Bland and for good reason. He’s a good player. But as we saw last year, he’s a much better slot corner than he is on the outside. It’s not that he’s awful on the boundary, but there is a noticeable difference. We got a taste of that on Sunday as the Cardinals attacked him a few times. He was even flagged for a pass interference penalty that went for 22 yards. It wasn’t egregious, but if it showed up a bit against a Joshua Dobbs-led Arizona team, just think of the potential repercussions against teams with a strong passing game.
8. Not a great day for Dak
When you look at the box score, Prescott wasn’t awful. Prescott finished 25/40 for 249 yards with a touchdown and a pick. But when you look at some crucial moments, his throws were a bit off. He connected to CeeDee Lamb on a nice 32-yard gain down the sideline, but had he thrown the ball a little more out in front of him, it would’ve been a touchdown. He also had Gallup open in the end zone, but it was underthrown and the defense was able to catch up to him and knock the ball away in what was first flagged for pass interference. There were a handful of “eek” moments and some better throws could’ve resulted in a couple of touchdowns the Cowboys desperately could’ve used. Then there was the interception.
9. An even worse day for McCarthy
There’s a lot that went wrong for the Cowboys as many people share the blame in this one. Quinn certainly shouldn’t be let off the hook after the way his defense played. And McCarthy’s offense putting up just 16 points against a Jonathan Gannon/Nick Rallis defense that he’s seen plenty of during their time with the Eagles was a huge disappointment. It was particularly frustrating to see him chew up so much time late in the game when the Cowboys were trailing by 12 points. Let’s play with a sense of urgency, can we?
When you take everything into account, this was one of the worst-coached games we’ve seen in a long while. The never-ending lack of discipline with all the stupid penalties, the continuously blown assignments, and the repeated meltdowns in the red zone where McCarthy is now the guy calling the plays was just a really bad look. The Cowboys had a much better roster and they got their gooses cooked.
NFL league links
Washington Post (paywall)
Now there’s no way Travis Kelce can shake off those rumors of a romance with Taylor Swift.
Not after the pop super-duper-star was spotted in a luxury suite — next to Kelce’s mother, Donna, no less — at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium during Sunday’s game between the tight end’s Chiefs and the visiting Chicago Bears.
Clad in Chiefs gear, Swift left no doubt about which team she was enthusiastically supporting and also seemingly put to rest any doubts that she and Kelce have at least some level of personal connection. She showed plenty of excitement when Kelce scored a third-quarter touchdown in what turned into a 41-10 rout of the hapless Bears.