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 vs. NY Giants - Week 11

  • Fourth quarter - 0:16

It comes as no surprise that two of the Washington Commanders' worst games in 2023 so far came against the New York Giants. You might be able to write the Chicago Bears game off as a fluke. It’s even possible that the team was overconfident going into it. But there’s no way this team could be overconfident against the G-Men.

Not even at home. Not even when entering as a favorite by more than a touchdown. Not even against the then-unknown Tommy DeVito at quarterback. Against the Giants, more than any other team in the Ron Rivera years, Washington finds a way to lose.

They lost because they committed six turnovers to the Giants' zero. The fact that they were still in a position to win in the final seconds indicates how much better the Commanders were than New York during the run of play. But they were careless, and they once again failed to overcome the one matchup that has come to define these games.

The Giants have a strong defensive line and a coordinator who loves to blitz. The Commanders have an offensive line - and an entire offensive scheme - that simply cannot stand up to pressure.

Despite five turnovers in the first 59 minutes, Washington was only down five. They had just under two minutes and one timeout to go 81 yards for what could be a game-winning touchdown. Sam Howell had done this kind of thing several times earlier in the season.

But Howell was also prone to make bad decisions. That’s entirely understandable. He is in his first full year as a starter and he has been playing behind a porous offensive line. Often, he is scrambling for his life.

Howell got lucky early in the drive when his long pass for Byron Pringle was picked off by rookie Tre Hawkins. He was called for illegal contact, thus preventing a third interception of the day.

Did I say preventing? I should have said delaying.

With just 29 seconds left and Washington still 52 yards away from the end zone, Howell dropped back for his final pass. The Giants' two defensive ends, as they had done all game, managed to create pressure from the outside.

Do you remember the Geno Smith throw to D.K. Metcalf that set up Seattle’s winning field goal? On that play, Washington got zero push from its interior linemen and the signal-caller stepped into a clean pocket. During this play, Dexter Lawrence bulled past left guard Chirs Paul, leaving Howell nowhere to step.

He had no choice but to fling the ball out of bounds. It was only a second down, so Howell had two more plays for a miracle.

Howell tried to get the ball to Logan Thomas in the right flat. With nowhere to step, the pass ended up being a floater. The Giants' hyper-athletic Isaiah Simmons stepped in front of the tight end and secured a very easy pick-six. It was the Commanders' sixth turnover of the game.

The Commanders fell to 4-9 and had arguably the toughest part of the schedule yet to play. The team didn’t put up much of a fight against the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, losing by a combined score of 90-25.

There were still four games left to play. The season was essentially over. Some people began doing mock drafts and writing about what went wrong in a season that began with such high hopes.