Sam Howell’s ugly afternoon vs. Bills shouldn’t shake Commanders’ commitment to him

Reality is often sobering, especially when that reality involves a 34-point loss at home that shakes the foundation of a 2-1 start. The Washington Commanders felt that reality Sunday, getting completely walloped by the Buffalo Bills 37-3 while Sam Howell suffered his first true “welcome to the NFL” moment.

The NFL season can be finicky as opinions and performances can swing wildly from week to week, and the Commanders are feeling the negative side of a small sample size that may have people calling for a new quarterback as the week progresses.

Howell easily had his worst game as a pro, throwing four interceptions and getting sacked an additional nine times as the bad plays just piled up to a point where the Commanders were down 37-0 before a meaningless field goal with about 50 seconds left. The Commanders looked like they could be one of the friskier teams in the NFL after being sold by Dan Snyder this summer, but they completely folded in their first game against a true Super Bowl contender. Howell and really the entire team were overmatched. Bills quarterback Josh Allen didn’t even have to do all that much because the Commanders kept turning the ball over and over and over again.

It was a rough afternoon for Sam Howell, who was sacked nine times and threw four interceptions against the Bills. That shouldn't shake the Commanders' commitment to him. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

It was a rough afternoon for Sam Howell, who was sacked nine times and threw four interceptions against the Bills. That shouldn’t shake the Commanders’ commitment to him. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

The level of quarterback play that the Commanders entertained in their loss won’t be good enough to win games, which isn’t a groundbreaking statement. Howell just took his fourth ever NFL start against a team that’s already built out their NFL roster — a very good one at that. Still, it’s hard not to be a bit reactionary about his performance especially considering the Commanders will need the wins to help buoy their playoff chances in the NFC East, one of the toughest divisions in football.

Howell probably should keep his job as the starting quarterback because the Commanders, at this point in time, need to figure out if Howell has the juice to be a long-term starter more than they need to start Jacoby Brissett, who probably gives them a better chance to win a one-game scenario. One horrible performance doesn’t change that — at the end of the day, this team is still 2-1 and has enough top-end talent to give most teams headaches. However, their current résumé does look a bit shaky after Sunday’s performances.

It’s not just that the Commanders got dusted by the Bills, even their win against the Broncos looks suspect now. The Commanders had a tough, hard-fought victory against the Broncos last week, scoring 35 points in a shootout that went back and forth. That same Broncos team just gave up 70 damn points to the Dolphins and nearly set a record for yards allowed in an NFL game. Seventy points! A 70-20 loss certainly has to change the way the Broncos-Commanders game is viewed. The Commanders scratched and clawed to beat the Cardinals, scraped by a team that lost by 50 points on Sunday and now are coming off of their first blowout loss of the season.

Perhaps this team isn’t quite ready to play spoiler to the rest of the teams in the NFL, but they should still ride the Howell train because it’s unlikely to look this bad every single week. There isn’t much to glean from a 34-point loss, just stay the course and see how much you can improve from week to week. Bad games are going to happen with Howell, it’s OK to endure them as long as the team still has a shot to be competitive toward the playoffs.

The Commanders’ start this season has some added perspective now that more games have been played, but right now they just need to hover their finger over the panic button instead of aggressively mashing it.

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