For the fourth time in as many weeks, the Washington Commanders watched the clock die down with the scoreboard not in their favor. Washington led twice at Tennessee Titans and showed improvement in a few areas that had been weaknesses in recent games, but ultimately were edged out by Tennessee, 21-17. Here are three numbers to know from the Commanders' fourth-straight loss.
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked five times on Sunday afternoon. The number is both the most he has been brought down by any game all season and the most sacks the Commanders have recorded since November of 2020.
Montez Sweat set the tone early, taking down Tannehill on the first play of the game for the defensive end's first sack of the season. The second quarter offered some déjà vu, as Sweat bulldozed past the Titans' left tackle and sacked the quarterback again on the very first play of the period. It was Sweat's fourth career multi-sack game, and he was undoubtedly one of the Commanders' best players all day.
Jon Allen was also a disruptive presence on defense, forcing Tannehill to throw an incompletion in the first quarter and bringing down the quarterback with the help of Daron Payne in the second. Efe Obada got in on the action in the third quarter, notching his own takedown of Tannehill. The most consequential sack of the day looked to have occurred in the fourth quarter at the hands of James Smith-Williams. On third-and-6 and with the Titans up by four, Smith-Williams sacked Tannehill for a loss of 16 yards that put Tennessee out of field goal range.
Unfortunately, the Commanders could not capitalize as the Titans held firm on to the four-point lead, but the pressure Washington's front was able to deliver against Tennessee is an encouraging improvement.
Third down conversion was not a problem for the Commanders offense in the first four weeks of play. The unit's 43.9% conversion rate was good for sixth in the league. Yesterday, though, was a different story.
The offense was only able to extend one of its third down opportunities into another set of downs. Though not as detrimental as last Sunday, penalties were part of the problem. The team's nine fouls for a loss of 71 yards set up a handful of challenging third-and-long situations. Offensive line struggles were also an issue, a factor that Ron Rivera noted has a lot to do with lack of personnel consistency in the unit because of injuries.
"I see a constant mixture of players," Rivera said. "There's no continuity in terms of the same five guys every week, or four of the five. When you constantly have some sort of shuffle going on, it's tough to get some continuity, especially from the beginning."
The inability to convert hampered the ability to build momentum offensively. In fact, the Commanders have held possession for at least 32 minutes in every game before the Titans matchup. Against Tennessee, Washington held possession for just over 27:20 minutes. Five minutes, as any football fan knows all too well, can feel like a lifetime and make all the difference.
The Washington Commanders take on the Tennessee Titans for their Week 5 matchup at FedExField. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Just because you know the assignment and do everything in your power to prepare for it does not necessarily mean the assignment becomes more manageable, especially when the task is to stop a 6-foot-3, 247-pound All-Pro running back.
The Commanders defense knew Derrick Henry needed to be a primary focus on Sunday and yet the Titans star performed as expected for all four quarters. Tannehill handed the ball off to Henry a staggering 28 times (for comparison, the second most targets for a Titan on the day was just four). Those 28 carries amounted to 102 yards and two touchdowns. Sunday was his fourth consecutive game with a rushing touchdown.
The Commanders did a good job overall of containing Henry. Only two of his runs resulted in gains of at least 10 yards. However, Henry found ways to keep his offense on the field. His three-yard run on a third-and-1 in the first quarter led to the Titans scoring a touchdown three plays later. Henry was also featured heavily in the Titans' 15-play, 81-yard drive that gave them a 14-10 lead with 10 touches.
The Commanders will face another run-dominant team on Thursday against the Chicago Bears, who average 157.4 yards per game. With only three days until their next kickoff, they will need to fine tune things quickly to be ready for the NFC North foe.