Sam Howell threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to make up for two turnovers and the Washington Commanders came back to beat the Arizona Cardinals 20-16 on Sunday, avoiding what would have been an embarrassing season-opening loss in their first game under new ownership.
In front of a sellout crowd and with several prominent alumni back to celebrate the start of a new era, the Commanders were sloppy with a pair of turnovers and several penalties along the offensive line that allowed Howell to be sacked six times.
Washington’s defense eventually took over and made game-changing plays. Montez Sweat strip-sacked Joshua Dobbs early in the fourth quarter to set up Howell’s go-ahead 6-yard TD run, and Abdullah Anderson recovered another fumble by Arizona with under five minutes left.
Howell had a jittery start in his new role as the Commanders’ starting quarterback, going 19 of 31 for 202 yards with a 7-yard TD pass to Brian Robinson Jr. and an interception. The second-year pro bounced back from the pick and a fumble late in the second quarter that handed the Cardinals a touchdown, completing four of seven passes after halftime.
Arizona, which is expected to be among the worst teams in the NFL this season, lost Jonathan Gannon’s debut as coach. Dobbs, acquired last month in a trade with Cleveland and starting after Gannon refused to name his No. 1 QB leading into the game, was 21 of 33 for 133 yards.
Among the former Washington players who made an appearance for the first game with Josh Harris’ group in charge were Hall of Famers John Riggins and Champ Bailey and 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. Nearly 65,000 fans filled FedEx Field in a party atmosphere, some chanting on the concourse goodbyes to former owner Dan Snyder, and many singing the team’s fight song in the stands after touchdowns.
“There’s a lot better energy,” Griffin said. “The team doesn’t have the distractions. The community is back together.”
Cardinals: DL Kevin Strong was attended to early in the second quarter before walking off under his own power. … TE Zach Ertz played nine months since having surgery to repair a torn ACL. … OL Kelvin Beachum (hand) was inactive.
Commanders: Howell and RG Sam Cosmi were each evaluated for a concussion and quickly cleared to play. … Chase Young was inactive because of a neck injury.
Cardinals: Host the New York Giants in their home opener next Sunday.
Commanders: Visit the Denver Broncos next Sunday.