5 plays that defined where it all went wrong for the Commanders in 2023

Things could have been different...

Logan Thomas
Logan Thomas / Patrick Smith/GettyImages
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Commanders at NY Giants - Week 7

  • Fourth quarter - 1:01

The Washington Commanders had a pretty good bounce-back win after the humiliating Chicago Bears loss. They put an end to their three-game skid by beating the Atlanta Falcons to even their record at 3-3. The 1-5 New York Giants were next up. A great chance to get on a bit of a roll. Get back over .500 and put themselves in solid playoff contention.

But this was the Giants. If Ron Rivera has shown he can get his team ready to play a strong Philadelphia Eagles team, he has also proven to have no clue how to prepare for the G-Men - even when they are a laughing stock.

The Giants were using a backup quarterback and a bunch of reserves on their offensive line. But they still managed to out-sack the Commanders 6-4. Washington’s passing attack was anemic all day. But there was a ray of hope at the end.

Just as he had done against the Eagles, Sam Howell led a magnificent final drive. Washington was down a touchdown when Daron Payne made a potentially game-saving fumble recovery midway through the fourth quarter. The quarterback trotted onto the field with just under eight minutes on the clock and 92 yards away from a tying score.

He would find five wide receivers during the 17-play drive. Rookie Chris Rodriguez Jr. contributed a couple of big runs. Howell would run once as well. And he would convert a fourth down right at the two-minute warning. Unfortunately, he didn't convert a second fourth down with the game on the line. It wasn’t his fault.

On the fourth down play, Washington’s offensive line again faltered. It was not an individual player breakdown. It was a poor design.

The Giants, who always blitz in this situation, sent more men than Washington kept in protection. Isaiah Simmons came unblocked from Howell’s blind side. Even so, he made a spectacular play to avoid him and scramble to his left.

Jahan Dotson was on the sideline just past the two-yard line. Howell’s pass was ever-so-slightly behind him but it was an easy catch for a first down inside the two.

He dropped it. That play represented a lot of what has gone wrong for the Commanders' offense this season. An offensive line breakdown - Howell running for his life - and Dotson coming up small.

And another loss.