The Washington Commanders traveled to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in Week 10 but could not hold on in a 29-26 defeat. Here are five takeaways from the matchup, presented by Maryland Lottery.
1. Sam Howell kept Washington in the game.
The Seahawks tried twice to put the game away. First, it was a field goal at the start of the fourth quarter. Then, it was a 10-play drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown reception from Tyler Lockett to put the Seahawks up by seven with 3:47 left to play.
But with the pressure at its peak and the game on the line, Sam Howell was at his best.
Howell, who now leads the league in passing yards after his 312-yard day against the Seahawks, led the Commanders on back-to-back scoring drives in the final 12 minutes of regulation. After Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson got the offense to the Seattle 39-yard line, Howell topped off an eight-play with four consecutive pass attempts, including a 19-yard touchdown to Gibson to tie things up at 19.
Adding to the difficulty of the throw was that Howell couldn't even put his full body into the throw because of a defender that nearly took him down for a sack.
The next drive, which encompasses 10 plays and 71 yards, was almost all on Howell. He completed five of nine passes, the last of which was a shot to Dyami Brown over two defenders and ended with a touchdown.
The game marked Howell's third straight 300-yard passing game -- the most by a Washington quarterback since Kirk Cousins since the 2016 season. Howell still has some work to do before being named the team's long-term future, but he's certainly on his way.
2. Explosive plays were a problem, especially in the second half.
The Seahawks presented an interesting challenge for the Commanders' defense. Seattle had middling numbers in several categories, but the one area it excelled in was creating explosive plays, which also happens to be the biggest pain points for the Burgundy & Gold.
And it certainly was a problem for Washington at various points on Sunday. The Seahawks had four plays of at least 15 yards in the first half, including a 20-yard pickup by Jaxon Smith-Njigba on a third-and-6 during their opening drive.
The most detrimental plays, however, came in the second half. Kenneth Walker III broke loose after Danny Johnson slipped and took a poor angle to make the tackle. Percy Butler also whiffed on a tackle at the 50-yard line, and Walker finished off the play by sprinting down the sideline for a 64-yard score.
The worst were part of the Seahawks' game-winning drive. The Commanders had the Seahawks backed up at their own 31-yard line on a third-and-4, but DK Metcalf beat Benjamin St-Juste and picked up a 17-yard reception.
Two plays later, Metcalf struck again with a 27-yard catch in the middle of the field that put the Seahawks in field goal range.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said on Thursday that giving up explosive plays has been what's held Washington's defense back from having better games. Clearly, the Commanders still have more work to do in that area.
3. Field goals kept Seattle in the game.
It might not look like it, but in some ways, Washington's defense had one of its better games against the Seahawks. Geno Smith and the Seattle offense were held to just four third-down conversions on 14 attempts, and the unit was forced to kick a field goal five times after getting into Washington territory.
While that is technically an improvement for a defense that's 31st in points allowed, it should also be noted that those field goals are exactly why Seattle stayed competitive.
Other than two drives in the first half, the Seattle offense was humming for most of the day. The Commanders did come up with critical stops during the Seahawks' first three scoring drives, but not before the Seahawks had moved to the Commanders' 30-, 24- and 15-yard lines.
The same thing happened in the fourth quarter. Washington did a good job of stopping the bleeding by forcing Smith to throw back-to-back completions on second- and third-down, but the Seahawks had already chunked their way down to the Commanders' 30-yard line, putting Jason Myers in position for an easy 45-yard field goal that made the score 19-12.
The "bend but don't break" strategy works fine at times, but it isn't something that can be sustained for an entire game. Washington must figure out a way to come up with stops earlier if it hopes to salvage the season.
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders during their Week 10 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
4. Brian Robinson balled out.
Howell wasn't the only offensive player who had a big night for the Commanders. Robinson also deserves credit for keeping the Commanders in the game and putting them in position to win.
In what was undoubtedly Robinson's best performance of his career as a pass-catcher, Robinson grabbed all six of his targets from Howell and recorded 119 yards and a touchdown. Two of his receptions were almost exact replicas of each other; his first reception of the day was a 51-yard house call on Washington's opening drive, and he nearly repeated the feat with a 48-yard catch that put Washington in field goal range.
Robinson only had eight carries on Sunday, but he made the most of his opportunities on the ground. On the Commanders' second touchdown drive of the game, he opened things up with back-to-back runs of 15 and 12 yards that moved Washington into Seattle territory.
Robinson led the team in both rushing and receiving yards. It is the first time a Washington player has led both categories in a single game since Adrian Peterson did so on September 9, 2018.
5. The road gets tougher for Washington from here.
Washington still has a chance to turn its season around. It's happened the last two seasons, so it could happen again with seven games left.
However, time is running out, and the Commanders' final slate of games is among the most daunting in the NFL. They still have to play the Cowboys twice along with the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, who may have Aaron Rodgers back as the starting quarterback by then.
Needless to say, that makes life much more difficult for the Commanders if they hope to push for the seventh seed in the playoffs.
Every game is a "must-win" in the NFL, but that point is going to be driven home more than normal in the leadup to Washington's rematch with the New York Giants at home. Like the last time the two teams played in Week 7, Washington should have a chance to win if it plays up to expectations, especially if the offense continues to play the way it has in recent weeks.
Either way, there's no denying that Washington needs to win this one.