The matchup between the Washington Commanders' offense, which has given up more sacks than any team in the NFL, and the pressure-happy New York Giants defense looked like it would a be a difficult one in the days leading up to Sunday.
It turns out that it was, and it was too much for Washington to overcome.
It's hard to pin down one thing that led to the Commanders falling to the Giants in a 14-7 defeat. Perhaps it was the fact that Howell, who has now been sacked 40 times in seven games, couldn't even get out of his drops at times before having a Giants defender breathe down his neck. Or maybe it was that Washington couldn't get a third down conversion until the end of the third quarter. And of course, Washington's issues with starting games flat continue to persist.
No matter what the main cause was, all the Commanders' offensive problems, which have been around since Week 1, were all back against the Giants, leading to them once again fighting to get back to .500 with a home matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles up next on the schedule.
Check out the best photos from the Washington Commanders' Week 7 matchup against the New York Giants. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
What adds to the frustration that seeped from the Commanders' locker room after the game is that the defense did manage to start fast. The unit got bailed out in the first quarter with a missed field goal from Graham Gano, but two of the Giants' first three drives were three-and-outs. It was the first time all season that Washington managed to accomplish that feat.
And the Commanders did put pressure on backup Tyrod Taylor, who was playing behind a makeshift offensive line. He was sacked four times, leading to a loss of 29 yards.
The problem was that Washington's offense did almost nothing throughout the first half. Here's how things went for the unit during the first two quarters: seven punts and an interception. They had just two first downs in that span, and at one point, they had more sack yards than positive yardage.
So, when the Giants got in the end zone on receptions from Darren Waller and Saquon Barkley, the plays felt more like sucker punches than body blows.
Despite all that, there was still a chance for Washington to come back with the score 14-0 at halftime.
The Commanders started the second half with some good fortune when Dyami Brown picked up a muffed punt, which saved them from another three-and-out. From there, the Commanders moved 21 yards on six plays with Brian Robinson Jr. scoring on a four-yard carry.
And the opportunities continued to come for the Commanders from there. Thanks in part to pressure from Chase Young, who had two sacks on the day, the Giants did little to move the ball for most of the second half. They put up just 37 yards in the third quarter, a drastic improvement from the 256 the Commanders gave up to start the game.
The Commanders simply couldn't capitalize on most of their chances, though, and any positive traction ultimately ended in disappointment. In the fourth quarter, the Commanders moved 81 yards to get into field goal range, mostly because of two catches by Terry McLaurin that represented 58 of his 90 yards. But when the drive did stall at the Giants' 9-yard line, Joey Slye's field goal attempt was blocked by Leonard Williams.
And yet, despite all that, Washington still had a chance to at least tie the score in the final minutes of regulation.
Daron Payne recovered a fumble from Barkley on a drive that would have certainly dashed any hopes the Commanders had at a comeback. With two timeouts and about eight minutes on the clock, it was possible Washington could move 92 yards to score.
They almost did it, too, although it took them 17 plays to get down to the Giants' 7-yard line. On fourth-and-5, Howell had Jahan Dotson open for what would have been a touchdown. But the ball was behind Dotson, and even though it was technically still catchable, the pass bounced off Dotson's hands, leading to a turnover on downs.
The Commanders didn't get another chance after that. Daron Payne ended up hobbled on the field, and since they had used all of their timeouts, that led to a 10-second runoff and the officials ruling that the game was over.