The score was 14-10 at Gillette Stadium, and it felt like a situation that the Washington Commanders had been in multiple times this season.
It took less than five minutes for the New England Patriots to erase the 10-0 lead the Commanders had built through the first 18 minutes of Week 9. A fumble from Brian Robinson Jr. gave the Patriots life, and after two drives that lasted for a combined 94 seconds, Washington's two-score lead transformed into a four-point deficit.
But unlike in previous weeks, when such mistakes proved to be the dynamite that upended the Commanders' momentum off its tracks, Washington didn't let it steer them off course. In the end, Washington did just enough on both sides of the ball to snap their two-game losing streak, and a Quan Martin interception ended up being the play that sealed the 20-17 victory, moving the Burgundy & Gold to 4-5 on the season.
"It was a hard-fought game," said head coach Ron Rivera. "We went back and forth. We had some opportunities; we missed some opportunities … For the most part, I thought the guys came out, competed, played hard, did good things."
It was another good day for the Commanders' offense, which put up 432 total yards on 77 plays, marking the first time since the 2020 season that Washington has amassed at least 400 yards in back-to-back games. Much like it was in last week's 38-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the offense looked efficient for most of the day, averaging 5.6 yards per play and converting nine of their 17 third-down attempts.
The bulk of that came from the production of Sam Howell, who completed 64% of his passes for 325 yards -- his third 300-yard game in five weeks -- to go with a touchdown and an interception. It looked like it would be a difficult day for the young quarterback, due to Bill Belichick's tendency to confuse signal-callers with his complex defensive schemes, but Howell was calm in the pocket, maneuvered to avoid pressure and took shots when appropriate to pick apart the 10th ranked defense in the league.
Howell now has 2,640 yards in nine games, making him the fastest quarterback in franchise history to reach that mark.
After a three-and-out that only moved the ball eight yards to start the contest, the Commanders' offense was humming as it put together scoring drives of nine and 11 plays. Robinson, who had 63 yards on 18 carries, broke loose in the second quarter off a block from John Bates for his fifth rushing touchdown of the year, putting the Commanders up 10-0.
Robinson, however, was also the cause of the downward slide for the Commanders in the second quarter. Two plays after the Washington defense forced its second three-and-out of the day, Robinson coughed up the ball thanks to Jahlani Tavai, and three plays after the Patriots recovered, Mac Jones connected with Hunter Henry on a 14-yard touchdown.
Check out the best photos of the Washington Commanders' Week 9 matchup with the New England Patriots. (photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Then, after Howell couldn't hit Jamison Crowder on a third-and-5, Rhamondre Stevenson broke loose through a hole that was created by Jamin Davis getting picked up on a block and raced 64 yards to the end zone.
It still looked as though Washington might be able to go into halftime with a lead. The Commanders put together a 15-play drive that included picking up a third-and-24 and a third-and-10, but Howell's only blemish, an interception in the end zone intended for Jahan Dotson, kept the score 14-10 at the end of the second quarter.
The Patriots opened the third quarter by extending their lead with a 42-yard field goal, but rather than struggle to regain momentum, Washington bounced right back with a seven-play drive that moved 75 yards downfield and ended with Dotson catching a 33-yard score that was laid out with exceptional touch from Howell.
Joey Slye kicked a 30-yard field goal on the Commanders' ensuing drive to make the score 20-17 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Neither team did much after that, but the Commanders' defense did its job to stall any attempts the Patriots made at building momentum. Facing a third-and-6 with 9:33 in the fourth quarter, Jamin Davis made up ground after Stevenson gained a few steps on him to punch out the ball and force a punt.
Then, the game-sealer: with 30 seconds left and the ball at the Commanders' 41-yard line, Jones' pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster was picked off by Martin, allowing Washington to run out the clock.
Should the Commanders go on a run, to back above .500, it would be right on track for how previous seasons have gone for Washington. They are now 9-2 in November during Rivera's tenure, and the next test will be a cross-country trip to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 12.