LANDOVER, Md. – Sam Howell was still in middle school the last time the Baltimore Ravens had lost a preseason game.
On Monday night, he helped put an end to one of the NFL’s most peculiar runs of success.
Washington's new starting quarterback threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns as the Commanders edged the Ravens 29-28 on a last-minute field goal. Joey Slye converted from 49 yards, sending the remaining home fans into a state of jubilation not often seen in recent years at FedEx Field.
The loss marked the end of a 24-game preseason win streak for the Ravens, who passed the previous NFL record of 19, set by the Green Bay Packers in the 1950s.
“It’s really not a real game, but at the same time whatever team you’re on, you want to win,” Howell said. “Especially knowing what they had on the other side with their little streak."
The back-and-forth thriller featured five lead changes and led Ravens coach John Harbaugh to rebuke those who call preseason football meaningless.
“You never played the game,” Harbaugh said of the critics. “You never were out there in a preseason game; you never were fighting for a spot on the field. And yet you have the audacity to say that the effort that somebody puts into that, to fight and win a game like that, is meaningless.
“I can’t respect anybody that says that — because of the effort these guys put into it. And that’s why I’m so proud of these guys, for the way they fought. It doesn’t matter, win or loss. It matters the way they went about their business. And I’m proud of that and always will be.”
Howell was named the starting quarterback last Friday, and showed why the Commanders are putting their faith in the second-year passer in a crucial year for coach Ron Rivera and new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
“We know how important the quarterback position is in the league and how important it is in this area,” Rivera said. “We’ve been looking for one, and I think we have an opportunity to have a guy that has a chance to be a really good football player for us."
Journeyman Ravens quarterback Josh Johnson matched Howell throw for throw in an exhilarating first half, at least by preseason standards.
Johnson finished 10 of 12 for 145 yards and two touchdowns, as well as one end zone interception where the ball fell through the arms of receiver James Proche II and into the waiting hands of Commanders defensive back Quan Martin.
Those missed points proved costly as Washington’s third-string QB, former Georgia standout Jake Fromm, led the Commanders down the field for the game-winning field goal, triggering a raucous party.
“It was so much fun to watch and be a part of,” Howell said
Monday’s preseason game was the first under new Washington owner Josh Harris, and it was a star-studded sideline in the minutes before the game.
Legendary Washington coach Joe Gibbs was in attendance with his grandson, NASCAR racer Ty Gibbs. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore was the Commanders’ honorary captain, and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg shook hands with the ownership group, as did rapper Wale.
Harris joined ESPN’s broadcast of the game in the second quarter.
“I have a lot of faith in Sam (Howell) and the team,” he said during the appearance.
Washington receiver Terry McLaurin left the game at the end of the second quarter with a right toe injury, after a Baltimore defender landed on his foot while making a tackle. McLaurin walked off the field and to the locker room himself, and x-rays were negative. Rivera said the team will take the injury day-by-day.
Ravens: Finish the preseason on Saturday night at Tampa Bay.
Commanders: Host Cincinnati on Saturday night in their preseason finale.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl