Leaving Tyreek Hill in a one-one-one situation normally leads to bad results for a defense. The Washington Commanders found out why three plays into the Miami Dolphins' opening drive.
It was third-and-2 on the 22-yard line, and the Dolphins decided to chuck it deep. Just as it's done for most of the season, that move paid off. Hill got past rookie Quan Martin, made the catch around the 45 and sprinted away from the rest of the Commanders' secondary for the 78-yard touchdown.
That was much of the story for the Commanders in Ron Rivera's first game calling the defense. The Dolphins presented the difficult challenge that many believed they would for a unit that had given up more points than any other in the league. They scored quickly; they scored methodically; and they even scored on defense. In a 45-15 defeat, it was a level of production that Washington simply couldn't keep up with.
Hill and the Dolphins made a habit of running away from Commanders, both on the field and in the box score. They had 406 yards of offense, compared to 245 for Washington, converted 54% of their third down and controlled the clock for almost five more more minutes.
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders during their Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
It's the latest addition to an unfortunate trend for Washington, which has given up at least 30 points in eight of their 13 games. The Dolphins eclipsed that number by halftime with Tua Tagovailoa completing 12 of his 15 pass attempts for 215 yards and a perfect passer rating (158.3).
At times, it did look like the defense had moments of improvement. While Tagovailoa didn't get sacked all game (that marks the second straight game that Washington has failed to get an opposing quarterback on the ground), the Commanders were in the backfield with back-to-back tackles for loss that led to a punt.
But Howell and the Commanders' offense couldn't capitalize on those moments enough, which was paramount if they had any chance to keeping up with the Dolphins. The one thing that couldn't happen was giving up easy points. That's exactly what transpired, though, as Howell's pass intended for Jahan Dotson was intercepted at the line of scrimmage and returned 33 yards for the score to make things 17-0.
And there was another unfortunate habit for the Commanders: giving up explosive plays. Coming into Sunday's game, the Burgundy & Gold had given up 16 touchdowns from outside the red zone. They tacked on two more in the first half; after Howell punched in a one-yard touchdown to cap off a 75-yard drive, Hill hauled in a 60-yard reception on third-and-7.
Hill's second touchdown, which put him at 12 scores for the season, made things 24-7 and almost impossible to mount a comeback, but the Dolphins weren't done. They effectively ended the game with their next two possessions. The first ended with a one-yard run by Raheem Mostert, and rookie De'Von Achane got in on the action to open the third quarter with a four-yard score.
Washington didn't give up, despite the score being out of hand. Howell tied the team lead in rushing touchdowns with a 13-yard scramble into the end zone and completed the two-point conversion to Logan Thomas, putting things at 38-15 with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
The defense got a stop to follow that up, keeping the Dolphins at bay after an offensive holding call pushed them back to their own 23-yard line. The offense then got into Dolphins territory with a 15-yard run by Chris Rodriguez Jr.
But Joey Slye's 49-yard attempt flew wide right, and with it, the hopes of Washington trying to make it a more competitive game withered. Dolphins backup Mike White took over for the visiting team's final drive and scored one final touchdown -- a two-yard run by Achane -- to end the game.