Well, folks, the Washington Commanders kicked off their 2023 season with a gritty win against the Arizona Cardinals. While the final score reads 20-16 in favor of Washington, the game left us with a mixed bag of emotions. Let’s dive into the rollercoaster of Week 1.

The Defense Reigns Supreme

For the first time since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth (well, almost), the Commanders won a game primarily thanks to their dominant defense. The defensive line, led by the indomitable duo of Daron Payne and Montez Sweat, wreaked havoc on the Arizona Cardinals. It felt like the Cardinals’ offensive line was auditioning for a reality show called “Sack Me, Please.”

Every member of the defensive line rotation contributed with game-changing plays at crucial moments. They overwhelmed the Cardinals, securing the first win under new owner Josh Harris and his squad of well-heeled investors. It’s safe to say the defense is living up to the hype.

Penalty Party

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room—the penalties. While the Cardinals did their fair share of self-sabotage, the Commanders decided to join in on the fun. In a bizarre turn of events, the Commanders managed to get a holding call against their punt coverage team. Yes, you read that right.

Christian Holmes and Quan Martin found themselves in the penalty spotlight, and the Commanders ended up committing a total of eight penalties during the game. It’s worth noting that the Cardinals weren’t exactly saints themselves, with nine penalties of their own.

Sure, it was a win, but let’s hope Coach Ron Rivera has some stern words for the penalty-prone players during practice this week. Because against tougher opponents, these mental lapses can be the difference between a W and an L.

Howell’s Tough Day at the Office

Now, let’s talk about Sam Howell, the Commanders’ young quarterback who found himself in a bit of a pickle. Howell’s day at the office resembled a scene from a workplace comedy gone wrong. He threw an interception, was sacked six times, and faced pressure that could make even the calmest person reconsider their career choices.

Head Coach Ron Rivera acknowledged Howell’s resilience but also pointed out some areas for improvement. It’s clear that Howell needs to work on his internal clock management to avoid those bone-crushing sacks. We wouldn’t want him to become a permanent resident in the turf.

Howell’s final stat line read 19/31 for 202 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Despite the rocky start, he managed to rally the troops and lead a game-winning drive. That’s the kind of resilience you want in your quarterback, even if it comes with a few bumps and bruises.

Offensive Blues or Growing Pains?

The Commanders’ offense had its fair share of stumbles in Week 1. Some see it as growing pains in a new West Coast scheme that relies on timing and spacing. Others, well, they might not be so charitable.

Yes, it’s only one game, and Eric Bieniemy, the offensive coordinator, needs time to fine-tune this offense. Howell showed flashes of brilliance, especially with his two touchdowns. However, the overall offensive performance left much to be desired.

The offensive line was leaky, allowing six sacks and putting Howell in harm’s way. Coach Rivera expressed uncertainty about how long it would take Howell to adjust his mental clock and avoid unnecessary hits. Let’s hope it’s a speedy learning curve, or else we might witness a few more sack-filled Sundays.

The Tale of Two Interpretations

As for the offense’s debut, there are two ways to look at it. The charitable perspective is that it’s early in the season, and these things take time. Howell showed promise, and Bieniemy will surely adjust as the season progresses. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

On the flip side, the less charitable view is that the offense lacked crispness, neither touchdown drive was particularly impressive, and turnovers were the order of the day. Bieniemy’s play-calling left some scratching their heads, especially in a late-game scenario where a touchdown could have sealed the deal.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, it’s too early to pass judgment definitively. It’s just one game, and with new faces in key positions, there’s bound to be a learning curve. The players and coaches know that this wasn’t their best showing, and they’re determined to improve.

Howell’s Toughness and Resilience Shine Through

Through all the ups and downs of Week 1, one thing became abundantly clear: Sam Howell is one tough cookie. He took hits, both literal and metaphorical, and kept on going. A late hit to the helmet didn’t faze him, and he demonstrated remarkable poise.

Howell’s toughness and resilience will be pivotal throughout the season. He’ll make mistakes, as all young quarterbacks do, but his ability to bounce back and stay mentally strong will be key. The Commanders are putting their faith in him, and so far, he’s shown why he deserves it.

A Familiar Start, But a Different Feeling

As we reflect on the Week 1 victory, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to the previous season. Washington had started on a high note last year, only to sputter as the season progressed. But there’s something different in the air this time.

The team’s confidence, even in the face of a less-than-perfect performance, is palpable. Players like Charles Leno Jr. believe that this year is different, and that’s a sentiment we can get behind.

While it’s still early days, and one game doesn’t define a season, the quarterback situation does seem to be a crucial factor. Howell’s resilience and potential provide a glimmer of hope for Commanders fans.

So, Commanders faithful, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a wild ride. The 2023 season is off to an intriguing start, and it’s anyone’s guess how the story will unfold.