Put them all aside – they’re just endgame indignities for a condemned regime.
Focus on what matters. Focus on quarterback Sam Howell. While there are many pressing questions for Washington’s commanders — including when managing partner Josh Harris will act — the most important remains the same: Is Howell the guy?
Sunday’s defeat was not a setback. Its growth portends a bright future. But after an exciting few weeks, it was a heat test, a reminder that Howell hasn’t locked himself in as the franchise quarterback, especially since the executives who ultimately make that decision probably aren’t not yet in Washington. The performance highlights Thanksgiving, when Howell will look to bounce back after a short week against an elite Dallas Cowboys defense.
Washington’s offensive struggles against New York didn’t rest solely on Howell. He had none of the three commanders’ fumbles. He didn’t have a brutal false start during his losing campaign. But he seemed troubled by Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who called for less blitzing and more zone coverage. Howell also didn’t handle pressure as well as he did against Philadelphia or New England, which made his throws less accurate and led to three interceptions — his second multiple-pick game of the year.
“It starts with me,” Howell said. “I have to do a better job taking care of the football. You know, I didn’t give my team a chance to win today. But we all have to be better.
“It’s still a step forward (for Howell),” coach Ron Rivera said. ” He learns ; he grows up. He made a few mistakes, but he held on. He fought, gave us a chance to win.
Early in Sunday’s game, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy used a heavier staff and committed to the run more than he had all year. During the week, Bieniemy told the team he was “going to do a better job of calling runs,” right tackle Andrew Wylie said. Then Bieniemy adopted a creative look for a deep play — three tight ends and a wide receiver, Dyami Brown — but Howell overthrew Brown and cornerback Nick McCloud caught the interception. Rivera said of the throw: “I don’t know if it was a good decision.”
“I thought it was the right reading,” Howell said. “I just threw it too far down the field.”
Howell’s most critical moment came late in the first half after rushing for a touchdown. Giants safety Xavier McKinney pushed him and Howell landed hard on the head and left shoulder. He lay there for a few seconds. Doctors examined him and he successfully passed concussion protocols, according to the team.
“I’m fine,” Howell said. “No serious injuries or anything.”
Through the first three quarters, Bieniemy remained as balanced as he has been all season. But Martindale, who bombed Howell at a historic pace during the first team meetingswitched it up and only sent 11 blitzes on 52 dropbacks (21.2%).
In the fourth quarter, with his team trailing 21-12, Bieniemy slowed down the passing game. Howell was unable to lead a spectacular comeback, as he did against Philadelphia and Seattle. He threw two more interceptions – the first was triggered by a defensive lineman and the second was a throw that Howell couldn’t reach on the sideline, resulting in a backbreaking pick six.
Afterward, Giants defenders said they thought they confused Howell with disguised coverages and quick pressure, particularly on the second interception. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux raved about Commanders’ difficulty passing — “Pressure breaks the pipes,” he said — and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said he noticed growth in Howell.
“He seemed a little more confident there,” Lawrence said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”
In the locker room, the frustration of Howell’s teammates boiled over. Here is just a small sample.
Receiver Jahan Dotson: “This one hurts a lot. »
Right guard Sam Cosmi: “It sucks. It’s a winnable game. The fact that we couldn’t win the game – I’m a little lost for words, to be completely honest with you. Sloppy football. Too many turnovers. I’m just tired of not being consistent overall. One week it’s defense, one week it’s offense, one week it’s defense, one week it’s – like, can we just run a game?
So here’s Howell’s challenge. His promise on the pitch is undeniable. Vocal leadership in the locker room has either been absent or ineffective. Starting for the first time at 23, will he be able to rally his teammates after a devastating defeat? Can he do it at a time when, as left tackle Charles Leno Jr. acknowledged, it’s increasingly difficult for players to believe the refrain they and Rivera have used all year — that There are still games they can save the season. ?
“We have to put this game behind us,” Howell said, and it’s not as simple as it seems. The Commanders have struggled to compartmentalize this season; the best example is to get blown by Chicago four days later an emotional overtime loss in Philadelphia. But therein lies the opportunity for Howell.
During his press conference Sunday, he praised the Cowboys as a “very good opponent.” But he reiterated that “the main thing is that we can put this behind us.” Now, in words and actions, he must help his team achieve this.