The morning of Oct. 5, the Commanders woke up 2-2, coming off their most impressive game thus far this season, a 34-31 overtime loss in Philadelphia.
The Commanders and many following the team felt that with upcoming games against the Bears, Falcons and Giants, Washington had every reasonable opportunity to earn a 5-2 record.
That night, they would play at home against the winless Chicago Bears (0-4). The Commanders knew the Bears were pitiful — and played like it.
Yet when the night was done, the winless Bears had humiliated the Commanders 40-20.
It was so bad the Commanders found themselves down 17-0 and 27-3 in the first half.
We called it the unofficial end of the Ron Rivera era. Rivera would finish the year as head coach, but this ugly, lopsided loss sealed his departure at season’s end. He was not going to make this franchise a winner.
Two weeks later, the injury-riddled New York Giants hosted the Commanders and defeated Washington 14-7. It was nothing short of a pitiful offensive performance, resulting in a profanity-laced postgame reaction from Jonathan Allen.
Instead of 5-2, the Commanders were 3-4. It was inexcusable and is still indefensible.
What has happened since, however, is the reinvigoration of the Washington offense. Against the Eagles in Week 8, Sam Howell completed 75 percent of his passes for 397 yards, four touchdowns and a 114.0 passer rating.
Last week at the Patriots, Howell completed 64.4 percent of his attempts for 325 yards, overcoming a horrible first-half interception and leading the team to a 20-17 win.
Now, at 4-5, the Commanders travel to Seattle (5-3), and the next week they host those Giants (2-7).
Howell and the offense are moving the ball much better. But the noise in Seattle will be something Howell has yet to face in the NFL. How will he perform? How many false starts will the offense experience?
This week, DMV radio has spoken multiple times about this team making the playoffs. But I tend to agree with Allen on this one. On Monday, Allen warned that the one thing this team cannot do is start talking about the playoffs.
Take note, Commanders fans: Allen is right. Get focused and stay focused on one game at a time. Howell is still learning how to cut back on the excessive sacks. He should not be talking about, or even thinking about, the playoffs.
Howell can’t save Rivera’s job, as Josh Harris will move on and bring in his own people next season.
Can Howell lead the team to win a big game in a noisy Seattle stadium on Sunday? If so, it would get the Commanders back to .500.
That’s enough to ask of Howell for now.