The Commanders Gave Up More Than 30 Points Again. The Defense Needs To Be Better Against The Bears

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) makes a touchdown catch in front of Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) makes a touchdown catch in front of Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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Sam Howell quieted some of the criticism he has been getting in recent weeks, even in a loss. The Washington Commanders' newest problem is on the other side of the ball.

Washington has allowed 30 or more points in three consecutive games, most recently a 34-31 defeat Sunday at defending NFC champion Philadelphia. The defense gave up six plays of 20 yards or more, which coach Ron Rivera knows needs to be fixed, among other things, with the winless Chicago Bears up next Thursday night.

“(The long plays have) been unfortunate and untimely,” Rivera said Monday. "(We need to) continue to work and continue to create takeaways. We’ve had opportunities, we just haven’t gone through with it and we’ve got to get takeaways. It is a big part of what can help us win football games.”

The Commanders (2-2) didn't force a turnover against the Eagles and had just one the previous week when they were blown out by Buffalo. Takeaways were a big reason why they started the season with consecutive victories.

Rivera thinks the defensive line, which was a nonfactor against the Bills, was solid in the Eagles game. Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen and edge rusher Chase Young each sacked Jalen Hurts, who still threw for 319 yards and ran for 34.

“We got at their quarterback,” Rivera said. “We had him on the run, and unfortunately he escaped a couple of times.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The offense, finally. Howell bounced back from throwing four interceptions and getting sacked nine times by Buffalo to throw for 290 yards, including a tying touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson at the end of regulation.

“I obviously had a bad performance last week, and I kind of just put it behind me,” Howell said after the game. "I just tried to come out here today and be myself and be who I am and try to give this team a good performance out of me. I would’ve liked to win the game for us, as well.”

Thanks to some much-needed run-pass balance, the Commanders converted 47% of their third-down opportunities, up from 11% against the Bills.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Risk-taking, maybe? “Riverboat Ron" played it safe with the extra point that forced overtime and defended the decision not to attempt a 2-point conversion.

Rivera said offensive players were tired and doesn't think he would've done something different even if Washington had a timeout to use.

“I don’t know if it would’ve mattered, to be honest with you, at that point,” Rivera said. “Thing that’s crazy about it is we won the toss and we had a chance to win. That’s all you can ask is that you have an opportunity. We had an opportunity.”

STOCK UP

Not that there was any realistic chance of the Commanders benching Howell for veteran backup Jacoby Brissett, but it helps that they saw improvement from the second-year quarterback in his fifth NFL start.

“I think he processed a lot quicker: Decision-making was quicker," Rivera said. “He really seemed to have a good feel and good grasp as to what was going on out there — made some really quick decisions, got the ball out of his hands, kept them off-balance.”

STOCK DOWN

It was a rough day for rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, who the Eagles threw at early and often. The first-round pick out of Mississippi State got assigned to cover A.J. Brown, who finished with nine catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns.

Forbes called it a learning experience, and Rivera made sure to speak to the 22-year-old after the game to make sure his head was in a good place.

“It’s just a process of learning and growth,” Rivera said. "I mean, he is a young player. He's a rookie that we’ve put a lot on. We think he’s capable.”

INJURIES

Receiver Curtis Samuel is dealing with a quadriceps injury, which is a concern given the short turnaround. Special teamer/depth cornerback Christian Holmes has a back problem, as well.

KEY NUMBER

1,200 — Yards Washington has allowed over its past three games, an average of 400 after giving up 210 in the season-opening win against Arizona.

NEXT STEPS

Prepare for Justin Fields and the Bears, who blew a 21-point lead against Denver to fall to 0-4. The Commanders are 7-point favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook and have recent experience facing QBs who can take off and run.

“We have to be disciplined up front," Rivera said. "We’ve got to be able to keep him contained, keep him in the pocket and not allow him to get outside of it where he is very, very dangerous.”

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