The Washington Commanders dropped their second NFC East matchup of the season with a 14-7 loss to the New York Giants. Here are five takeaways from the game, presented by Maryland Lottery.
1. Sam Howell got hit often.
An unfortunate trend has started to build for the Commanders this season. Teams tend to have uncharacteristically productive days rushing the passer against them.
Let's wind the clock back to Week 3, when the Buffalo Bills had only three sacks before playing the Commanders. They came out of the 37-3 win tripling that total. In Week 6, the Atlanta Falcons matched their five-sack total in the previous five games. And on Sunday, the Giants, who had a league-low five sacks, surpassed that total with six sacks on Sam Howell.
This shouldn't be the case, but allowing a high number of sacks is nothing new for Washington this season. But unlike in previous weeks, when the offense was still able to function, consistent pressure completely shut the unit down for most of the afternoon. Howell took a sack on three of the Commanders' first four drives. With 12:45 in the second quarter, Washington's only had 17 net yards.
Granted, it was better in the second half, and because of that, Washington was able to move downfield and string together some positive drives. But putting that aside, it's unacceptable for a team to give up five sacks in one half, regardless of whose fault it is. If Washington has any hope of playing up to its potential, it must find a way to limit the pressure Howell has experienced in the last seven games.
2. The offense had an inability to maintain drives.
The sacks play into an even larger problem for Washington: the offense has had difficulty sustaining drives.
Whether it was because Howell was missing his targets, the unit allowing a sack or the running backs running into a wall of blue defenders, it was almost impossible for Washington to convert on third down. As it was shown on the monitors at MetLife Stadium, Washington was 0-for-11 on third down before Terry McLaurin made a 31-yard catch on third-and-9 from the Giants' 47-yard line.
It was the Commanders' only third-down conversion on 15 attempts. This became particularly damning on their last two drives, when they were inside the Giants' 15-yard line on two occasions and came away with zero points and two failures at a third-down pickup.
Like the sacks, this is not a new issue for the Commanders. Over the last three weeks, the Commanders have been 9-of-37 on third-down attempts (24%), which is the worst rate in the league. Once again, it's hard for the offense, which admittedly does have talent, to play up to its expectations when it can't keep the chains moving on third down.
Check out the best photos from the Washington Commanders' Week 7 matchup against the New York Giants. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
3. The defense did play well enough.
If there's any bright side to last Sunday's game, it's that the defense did enough to win.
In the spirit of criticism, it's never a good thing when a team that has struggled to score an offensive touchdown since Week 3 managed to do so twice in the first half. The Giants moved down the field with ease at times with their touchdowns being the culmination of drives lasting 88 and 48 yards.
However, after the 32-yard score by Saquon Barkley, the Giants struggled about as much as Washington. They ended the game with five punts, and a turnover spoiled a 72-yard drive. At times, the Commanders took advantage of the Giants' issues on the offensive line, sacking Tyrod Taylor five times.
Although it's hard to say they were perfect -- they still gave up too much yardage to an offense that was 31st in yards per game heading into Sunday's game -- the Commanders still held the Giants to a manageable score and gave their offense plenty of chances to capitalize. Speaking of which...
4. Too many missed opportunities.
As poorly as the offense played for most of the day, it's not as if it didn't have chances to turn things around. In fact, the entire second half was full of them.
Things started off well in the third quarter. Dyami Brown fell on a muffed punt, and the Commanders got into the end zone on a 21-yard drive. Just like that, Washington was only down one score with almost a full two quarters to at least tie things up.
But the score proved to be more of a blip than a change in momentum. Washington followed that touchdown with back-to-back punts, putting up just 29 yards on eight plays, but the real missed chances came in the fourth quarter.
Remember when we brought up that 31-yard catch by McLaurin? Well, that play put the Commanders at the Giants' 16-yard line. They moved a grand total of six yards after that, which is disappointing on its own, but instead of making the score 14-10 with a 27-yard field goal, Joey Slye’s attempt was blocked by Leonard Williams.
Then, after Daron Payne gave the offense one final gasp with a fumble recovery at the Commanders' 8-yard line, the unit moved all the way to the Giants' 7-yard line before stalling on a fourth-and-5. Howell spun to avoid pressure but missed Jahan Dotson on the left sideline. Whether the cause of the incompletion was Howell throwing the ball behind Dotson or the wideout missing a pass that he's known to make is irrelevant. The Commanders couldn't convert, and the Giants took over the ball to end the game.
5. They need to have a short memory.
Washington has lost four of its last five games, and most of them have been in ugly fashion. As hard as it is to look past that, it's what needs to happen in order for the Commanders to salvage their season.
If the Commanders do need any motivation to have a short memory, it's that they have a matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles coming up next. The Eagles are no longer undefeated, but they are still considered a Super Bowl favorite with several weapons on both sides of the ball. Although the Commanders lost their previous game in overtime, there's an argument to be made that it was the most complete game Washington has played all year.
Washington must have a similar performance if it hopes to take down the Eagles in the rematch, and in order to do that, it can't linger on the most recent loss too long.