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Instant Analysis | Sam Howell, Commanders fall to Ravens in preseason finale


It was the final chance for the Washington Commanders' backups to make their case to earn a roster spot, and with the starters all on the sideline, there was a whole game's worth of opportunities to do so. 

In about 72 hours, they will see if their performances were enough to remain with the team. 

Sam fueled the team with 342 total yards, and despite yet another late surge from the offense, the team fell to the Baltimore Ravens, 17-15, in the preseason finale

Most of the players who suited up for the Commanders on Saturday -- 32 players were declared inactive by the team prior to kickoff -- were fighting for a job, and the sense of urgency was felt when watching either side of the ball. The slow starts that plagued the team against the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs were not as prevalent, as Howell, who was named the starting quarterback, led the unit to 388 total yards. 

Howell finished the game 24-of-35 for 288 yards and a touchdown. There were some rookie mistakes from the fifth-round pick, but it was largely a productive night for Howell, as he stood firm in the pocket to deliver accurate throws, He also led the team with 62 rushing yards on eight carries.

Howell and the Commanders took advantage of a short field on their second drive and got on the scoreboard with a 44-yard field goal from Joey Slye. A 15-yard strike to Alex Erickson got the Commanders in field goal range to take a 3-0 lead.

The Washington Commanders take on the Baltimore Ravens to wrap up the 2022 preseason. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

Defensively, the Commanders held the Ravens, a team that prides itself on running the ball, to 21 yards on the ground. Third downs, which were a glaring issue for the unit in the previous two weeks, were drastically improved, as the Ravens completed just 1-of-8 third downs.

Allowing big plays, however, was still a problem for the team. The Commanders were gashed, particularly on the left side of the field, by Demarcus Robinson, who caught four of his six receptions for 135 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter to take the lead, 7-3.

After the two teams exchanged punts, Washington drove all the way down to the Ravens' 4-yard line. But the offense failed to finish things in the end zone, which became a consistent problem for the unit all night. Washington cut the score to 7-6, but it was still a missed opportunity. Washington was 1-of-3 on its red zone trips.

At the start of the second half, Ravens quarterback Anthony Brown led his offense out to 10 more points, including a six-yard rushing score, to make things 17-6. Brown finished the game with 256 passing yards and two total touchdowns.

But just like in the fourth quarter of the previous two matchups, the offense continued to fight. Slye ended a 17-play, 64-yard drive with a 29-yard field goal, and Reggie Bonnafon dove into the end zone with less than six minutes left to make the score 17-15. After a stop by the defense, during which the Ravens only moved 12 yards downfield, Howell had one last chance to take the lead and break the Ravens' undefeated preseason streak.

However, with 1:23 left, Howell's fourth-down pass was incomplete, allowing the Ravens to run out the clock.

Now that the preseason has concluded, the coaches will evaluate the tape and make their final roster decisions. The 53-man roster will be announced on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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