Commanders' horrific series just before half-time
With 96 seconds left in the first half and Atlanta about to attempt a field goal. The Washington Commanders called their final time out in order to preserve the clock. Younghoe Koo converted his 47-yard attempt to make the score 17-13. But there was an opportunity ahead.
Washington then got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 91 seconds to make something happen. What happened next was a mini-catastrophe.
What they made happen was two sacks and a throw-away. They had to punt the ball back to Atlanta without even making the Falcons spend all of their own timeouts.
When the dust settled, the Falcons had the ball inside Commanders territory with 48 seconds left in the half and a timeout. A good offense with a seasoned quarterback almost certainly would have come away with at least three points in that situation.
Fortunately for the Commanders, Atlanta has neither a good offense nor a seasoned quarterback. They went nowhere. The score remained 17-13 going into half-time. No harm, no foul.
But this highlights two things that have hurt the Commanders this season. Sam Howell needs to make quicker decisions about running or throwing the ball away. He was sacked five times by a defense that only had five during the previous five games.
On most of them, he had time, but he held the ball. A few times, he looked like he might run, but was not able to. Howell has done so many good things this season, but he has to improve his pocket awareness. Hopefully, this is something that new quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard is working on.
And the third down call was awful. It was a screen pass that had little chance of working - precisely because everyone who had been paying attention knew that would be the play call.
Howell saw that it wouldn’t work so quickly that he threw the ball away almost as soon as he fielded the snap. Eric Bieniemy is a first-rate play-caller, and it would be silly to complain about play-calling in a game that saw Atlanta make some of the worst decisions you are likely to see at the NFL level. But the overall inability to run the ball consistently may be causing the coach to lean too heavily on the pass, even when it is totally inappropriate to do so.