Sam Howell threw three short passes for touchdowns, Washington intercepted Desmond Ridder three times and the Commanders snapped a three-game losing streak with a 24-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Coming off a 40-20 home loss to the lowly Chicago Bears, the Commanders (3-3) redeemed themselves a bit against the Falcons (3-3).
Howell shook off five more sacks — he’s now been dumped 34 times this season — to complete 14 of 23 passes for 151 yards in a close-to-the-vest passing game. The Commanders also showed more balance, rushing for 72 yards after dropping back to pass on their final 55 snaps against the Bears.
But it was the defense that sealed this one for the Commanders.
Kendall Fuller grabbed the first interception against Ridder, returning it deep into Atlanta territory to set up a touchdown that pushed Washington to a 24-10 lead.
Benjamin St-Juste came up with the second pick in the end zone on a badly underthrown ball by Ridder with the Falcons facing third-and-goal from the 7. Falcons coach Arthur Smith reacted to the horrible throw by clutching his head with both hands.
Linebacker Jamin Davis sealed it for Washington in the final minute, picking off Ridder’s final pass on a slant after the Falcons drove into Commanders territory looking for a tying touchdown and two-point conversion.
Howell worked well with his running backs, connecting on touchdowns of 1 yard to Antonio Gibson and 24 yards to Brian Robinson, who plowed over Richie Grant at the goal line. Curtis Samuel hauled in Washington’s other TD on a 7-yard throw.
Jamison Crowder’s 61-yard punt return set up Gibson’s score.
Ridder, coming off a career day in a 21-19 win over Houston, threw for 307 yards and a pair of scores. But it was the second time in three weeks that he’s had three turnovers in a game, which is sure to rekindle questions about his long-term future as Atlanta’s quarterback.
In addition to the picks, Ridder twice missed open receivers for potentially big gains, including an overthrow of newcomer Van Jefferson that likely would’ve been a touchdown. Ridder also was called for intentional grounding.
The Falcons cut into Washington’s two-touchdown lead on Ridder’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith with 12:38 remaining. Curiously, Smith decided to go for a two-point conversion.
Atlanta actually had two cracks at the two points. The first was a pass in the corner that resulted in a pass interference penalty, moving the ball to the 1. The Falcons tried to power it in from there, but short-yardage back Tyler Allgeier was stuffed by Jonathan Allen and Khaleke Hudson.
Calais Campbell reached a major milestone with his 100th career sack, pulling down Howell by the left ankle late in the first half.
Campbell hopped off the turf to celebrate with the Dirty Bird dance. The crowd at Mercedes-Benz gave him a standing ovation and teammates crowded around the 37-year-old defensive end to give him a hug.
Campbell became the sixth active player and 41st player overall to reach 100 sacks. Bruce Smith is the career leader with 200.
Washington DT Daron Payne went down on a strange play in the fourth quarter.
After lining up in his stance, Payne suddenly fell over to draw a flag for offsides. He came up holding his left hand, though it was not immediately clear how or when he was injured.
Commanders: Stay on the road next Sunday for an NFC East game against the New York Giants.
Falcons: Travel to Tampa Bay to meet the Buccaneers in an NFC South contest next Sunday.