Things started reasonably well for the Commanders after holding the Bills to a field goal. Washington moved the ball to the 25-yard line before things fell apart for quarterback Sam Howell and the Commanders. That series would define the rest of the day. Howell turned the ball over four times, and Washington had five turnovers.
It was an unmitigated disaster.
Here are five takeaways from the game.
Rough day for Sam Howell
Did the Bills establish the blueprint for other teams on how to attack the Washington offense moving forward? You bet. The Eagles defensive line is better than Buffalo’s front. Fletcher Cox, Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick will all enjoy Washington’s film this week, thinking about those nine sacks and 15 QB hits Buffalo had on Howell in Week 3.
Next week is critical for Howell. You can’t write him off after one or two bad starts. But if he follows up Sunday’s performance with a similar game next week, some could lose patience with him. That’s not necessarily fair, but it’s reality.
Running game was cooking
For the second consecutive week, running back Brian Robinson Jr. was terrific. Robinson carried the ball 10 times for 70 yards. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough attempts. With a struggling young quarterback, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy didn’t do enough to help the offense and Howell specifically. When the Commanders upset the Eagles last season, it was because of Robinson and the running game. That’s one way to slow down a pass rush. Would it have changed the outcome of Sunday’s game? Probably not. But the game would have been much closer.
Something else we didn’t see enough was the screen game. The screen game was a big part of the win over Denver. Where was it against the Bills?
This was still a game in the fourth quarter
Remarkably, this was only a two-possession game when the fourth quarter began. After all of the sacks and turnovers, the Commanders still had a chance. However, an Antonio Gibson fumble in Washington territory gave the Bills the ball at the 30-yard line. Then there was Howell’s next interception, where he rolled out and tried to lob it over a 6-foot-6 defensive end who picked it off and ran it back for a touchdown.
Gibson’s fumble is lost in all of this because of the final score. That’s his first fumble of the regular season after fumbling once in the preseason. Sadly, it’s who he is. On a day when nothing went right, Gibson’s latest turnover flies under the radar.
Where was the pass rush?
One week after Washington’s defensive line harassed Denver QB Russell Wilson to preserve a road win over the Broncos, they were mostly invisible on Sunday. Montez Sweat put some heat on Josh Allen early, but the Commanders finished with zero sacks. Allen was hit just once on 23 dropbacks and rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Washington didn’t make life difficult for Allen at all, rarely moving him off his spot.
There were some questions about Buffalo’s offensive line heading into the game. On Sunday, the Bills’ front five outplayed Washington’s more acclaimed defensive line.
3rd downs tell the story of the game
Here’s a look at the third-down conversions for each offense:
Buffalo: 9/15 (60%)
Washington: 1/9 (11%)
Washington’s defense was on a historic run of third-down excellence, but that all ended Sunday. Whether it was Josh Allen using his legs to burn the Commanders on third-and-long or Allen finding a wide-open Stefon Diggs roaming the secondary, things were too easy for the Bills.
Meanwhile, for the Commanders, their third-down woes go hand-in-hand with their protection issues and Howell holding the ball too long. It led to multiple sacks by the Bills on third down. So many issues for Washington, including the receivers not creating enough separation at times. Just an overall bad day.