This is not how the Washington Commanders drew it up, even though they ended up beating the New England Patriots 20-17 on Sunday.
Late in the first half against the Patriots on Sunday, Washington had a chance to take a halftime lead in a game they trailed 14-10. After taking over possession with 6:01 remaining, the Commanders drove 75 yards on 15 plays to set up first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. Then disaster struck.
With 23 seconds remaining and Washington in possession of all three of its timeouts, quarterback Sam Howell took a shotgun snap, then rolled out to his right. The Patriots dropped seven men in coverage, making for tight passing windows up against the end zone. Howell couldn't find an open receiver.
As he approached the sideline, Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson beat his blocker and got pressure on Howell. Howell got rid of the ball but he didn't throw it out of bounds. Instead, he did this:
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 5, 2023
That's a pass directly to safety Kyle Dugger, who snagged the ball for an interception in the end zone, killing Washington's scoring chance. There was no Washington receiver in sight.
Jahan Dotson was the closest, but he was standing by the end line nowhere near the ball. Three Patriots had a better shot at catching it than Dotson. It was an inexplicable decision by Howell in a spot where a throwaway would have left the Commanders with three more shots at the end zone.
It's been a rough week for the Commanders, who waved the white flag on the season by trading pass rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Plays like Howell's interception aren't making things any easier.