The Washington Commanders fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-31, in an overtime thriller. Here are five takeaways from the loss, presented by Maryland Lottery.
1. Sam Howell played much better.
There were a lot of doubts about Sam Howell after a flat-out bad performance against the Buffalo Bills, during which he threw four interceptions and was sacked nine times.
Howell didn't feel any extra pressure to perform, and he doesn't believe in moral victories, but he still answered plenty of questions about his skill set in this Sunday's loss.
"It was a hell of a performance by Sam," Ron Rivera said after the game. "He bounced back. He learned from last week. He grew and he got better."
In many ways, Howell looked like a completely different quarterback compared to what he was against the Bills. He operated in the pocket with poise, got rid of the ball quicker and delivered accurate passes. Sure, the pinpoint accuracy was there at times, like on his last-second touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson to force overtime, but he was also content to take what the Eagles gave him. He also wasn't afraid to roll out and scramble, as he finished with 40 rushing yards.
Howell also made sure to spread the ball around. He targeted nine different pass-catchers, including Terry McLaurin, who had eight catches for 86 yards.
Howell finished the game completing 71% of his passes for 290 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions. The Commanders lost, but his performance is a positive sign for the team's long-term success.
2. Tough day for Emmanuel Forbes Jr.
Going against a Pro Bowl receiver is always tough, and that's something Emmanuel Forbes Jr. learned on Sunday marking AJ Brown.
Brown had an explosive day for the Eagles, scoring two touchdowns in the second half while racking up 175 yards on nine catches. Forbes was left trailing Brown on several plays, as the wideout managed to get behind the rookie with double moves. The Eagles saw the mismatch, and they made sure to go after it on every drive.
"They picked on the young kid today," Rivera said. "I expect him to bounce back next week."
It wasn't necessarily all bad for Forbes. He did manage to make a handful of plays, like the incompletion he forced in fourth quarter, which later led to a punt.
But those moments were overshadowed by explosive plays from Brown, like his 28-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 31-24 lead.
The Commanders aren't giving up on Forbes. They still believe in him, and one bad game is not going to define his career. The most important thing Rivera wants him to do is learn from it.
"It is the only way they can grow," Rivera said. "Be out on the football field, make your mistakes, make your plays, learn, and get better."
The Washington Commanders have begun warming up at Lincoln Financial Field for their Week 4 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
3. A brief regression in the third quarter.
Washington's offense was clicking for most of the game, and normally, that might be enough to beat a team. The Eagles aren't just any team, though, and in order to beat them, their opponents need to match their intensity for four quarters.
The third quarter was a brief, but costly regression for the offense.
While the Eagles managed to put up 13 points -- two field goals and Brown's 59-yard catch-and-run to the end zone -- the Commanders only ran 10 plays in the third quarter and put up just 23 net yards. Their first drive of the second half was marred by frustration when Dotson had a pass fly though his hands on third-and-4. The next saw an untimely sack spoil what could have been a promising drive for the offense. The unit had moved up to the Commanders' 42-yard line and faced a manageable third down scenario. The five-yard sack left Washington punting the ball back to the Eagles, who had just taken the lead for the first time all afternoon.
To Rivera, it was a reminder that even the minor details carry significant weight.
"Details of your job, details of what you're supposed to do. We all have to be better."
4. Terry McLaurin's non-catch.
The most significant play all day for the Commanders ended up being an incompletion.
By now, Commanders fans don't need to be told about McLaurin's non-catch that was ultimately ruled incomplete because there wasn't enough evidence to determine whether McLaurin, who stepped on Reed Blankenship's arm on a third-down catch, did enough to stay inbounds. It was a turning point in the game, because not only did it force the Commanders to punt, but it also led to the Eagles kicking a game-winning field goal.
After the game, Rivera relayed what he was told by the officials.
"The explanation I got was that they couldn't see it clear enough," Rivera said. "And because there was no definitive catch, you couldn't overrule it, according to the rules. So, they did it by the book and you have to respect that they did it by the book."
It was another example of the Commanders needing to master the minor details. The Eagles were in man coverage, which Howell said they tend to do in third down situations. Had Howell managed to see it sooner, he may have been able to get the ball to McLaurin quicker.
McLaurin also took some of the blame. He was trying to move his foot back to keep himself inbounds, but Blankenship's arm got in the way of that.
It's an unfortunate way to lose a game, and while there is some solace to the fact that the Commanders came that close to potentially beating a Super Bowl contender, it doesn't change that they need to clean up those issues going forward to avoid leaving those decisions to chance.
5. A quick turnaround.
There's not much time to reflect on Sunday's loss. The Commanders have a short week to prepare for their Week 5 matchup with the Chicago Bears, and like the previous two weeks, there is another opportunity for the Commanders to get back on track.
Back-to-back losses are never ideal, but consider this: should the Commanders manage to beat the Bears on Thursday, they will be 3-2 and still in good position. And in case anyone needs a reminder, Washington was 1-4 last season at this time last year. Being above .500 at this point in the season would still be a promising start for the team.
And while none of the players or coaches are going to take a moral victory, the way they played was an example of what they could be.
"To do it against that team, that, to me, was impressive," Rivera said. "There's no moral victories, but we are going to learn from it, and I think this is going to help up going forward."