With less than a minute left to play and thousands of fans screaming down their necks, the Washington Commanders gave themselves a chance to come away with an upset over the Seattle Seahawks.
It was third-and-10 at the Seattle 35-yard line, and Sam Howell bounced in the pocket before finding his old UNC teammate Dyami Brown, who snagged the pass and sprinted past Seahawks defenders for the game-tying score.
Giving up explosive plays, a festering wound for the Commanders' defense all season, became a problem once again on the Seahawks' final drive, though. A 27-yard catch-and-run by DK Metcalf that set up the winning 43-yard field goal sucked all the air out of Washington's hopes of victory.
In a way, Washington's 29-26 loss to the Seahawks, which drops them to 4-6, is a referendum on where the team is at with seven games left to play. There's no doubt the team is playing better than it was over a month ago, when they got blown out by the 0-4 Chicago Bears. The offense was clicking more consistently, while the defense did enough to at least keep Washington in the game.
But the mistakes, however small, continue to pile up, and against playoff contenders, any number of mistakes is too many.
The most frustrating part about the errors is that it's spoiling the other parts of the team that truly shine at times. The biggest example of this is Sam Howell, who seems to have found his stride after an un-and-down start to the season. Washington's coaches had faith that he would remain calm in the infamously loud Lumen Field, and that's exactly what the second-year pro did, completing 66% of his passes for 312 yards and three scores.
As of now, Howell leads the league with 2,783 yards.
Howell's increased efficiency, poise and ability to scramble has had a ripple effect on the offense, which got off to a fast start with an opening touchdown off a 51-yard catch-and-run by Brian Robinson Jr. Howell scrambled to his left and waited for the defense to converge on him before dumping the pass off to the running back, who had six catches on six targets for 119 yards.
But thanks to Joey Slye's misses extra point, the Commanders only had a six-point lead.
While the Seahawks' offense did have its most successful game this season with 489 yards of offense, the Commanders did manage to keep them out of the end zone. The problem was that Seattle still did just enough to put itself into field goal range. Jason Myers kept the Seahawks in the game with field goals of 45, 43 and 33 yards, the last of which tied the score at 9-9 with 1:47 left in the first half.
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders during their Week 10 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
Adding to that was Washington found itself in a rut after its 65-yard opening drive. The Commanders got the ball five more times in the first half, and despite ample opportunities to extend or retake the lead, they could only put up 63 yards for the rest of the first half.
The second half started off the way Washington needed it to go. Jonathan Allen sacked Geno Smith on third down to force a three-and-out, and Robinson moved the offense into field goal range with a 48-yard catch.
That's where the mistakes started to pile up, though.
Two plays after Slye's 47-yard field goal, Kenneth Walker III broke loose down the right sideline for a 64-yard touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 16-12 lead. Then, on the Commanders' ensuing drive, Howell fumbled the ball while fighting for extra yardage at the 45-yard line. It was quickly recovered by Devon Witherspoon, who had three pass breakups to go with five tackles.
To its credit, Washington didn't let it completely upend its chances at a win. The defense came up with a three-and-out after Howell's fumble. Right after Myers hit a 45-yard field goal to go up 19-12, Howell and the offense moved the ball 73 yards downfield on eight plays, finding Antonio Gibson for a 19-yard score despite having his arm hit on the throw.
It was widely known that Seattle's offense struggled on third down leading up to the game. That was the case once again on Sunday, as the Commanders held the Seahawks to just four third-down conversions all evening.
It was also known that the Seahawks do most of their damage on earlier downs through explosive plays. Smith and his offense were true to form in both areas on the Seahawks' next possession. Smith found Tyler Lockett on a 20-yard catch that moved Seattle into Washington territory on a first-and-10. After the Commanders took two costly penalties in the form of pass interference and having too many players on the field, Smith found Lockett again on a 16-yard reception.
Smith's final target to Lockett was a five-yard touchdown that made the score 26-19.
Once again, Howell delivered in a high-pressure situation. Prior to his touchdown pass to Brown, he converted a third-and-2 and a fourth-and-1 with passes to McLaurin. Brown's touchdown had to be placed over two Seahawks defenders, and Howell zipped the ball in the exact spot where his wideout needed it.
Here's where allowing explosive plays became too much for Washington. Smith hit Metcalf for a 17-yard reception on a third-and-4, and two plays later, the two connected again for a 27-yard play that put the Seahawks in field goal range.
The game-winning field goal from Myers put the Commanders back down to two games below .500. They have two games in 10 days to try and improve, the next of which being a home matchup against the New York Giants on Nov. 19.