Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster attempts to make a reception while defended by Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller in the final minute of Sunday’s game in Foxborough, Mass. The pass went through Smith-Schuster’s hands and was intercepted, clinching a 20-17 win for the Commanders. Greg M. Cooper/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Sam Howell was kicking himself.

The Commanders quarterback was leaving the field minutes after throwing a red-zone interception to Patriots safety Kyle Dugger that negated his team’s chance to take a lead into halftime.

“That’s probably one of the worst plays I’ve made in my football career,” Howell said.

Coach Ron Rivera noticed the agitation on Howell’s face and had a quick word with him in the team’s tunnel.

“He’s resilient,” Rivera said. “I knew he was going to get over it quickly and come out and play.”

He was right. And with a little help from their defense, the Commanders picked up one of their biggest victories of the season.


Howell passed for 325 yards and a game-tying touchdown and Jartavius Martin had a late interception to help Washington hold off New England 20-17 on Sunday.

It marked the first time in Howell’s career he eclipsed 300 yards passing in consecutive games, as the Commanders got their first victory in New England since 1996 and snapped a four-game losing streak to the Patriots.

Washington (4-5) turned it over twice but wore down the Patriots’ defense by going 9 for 17 on third down. Brian Robinson added a rushing touchdown to help the Commanders end a two-game skid.

New England dropped to 2-7 for the first time since Bill Belichick’s first season as coach in 2000. The Patriots are 0-5 in non-division games, the only team in the NFL without a win outside of their division.

“The results aren’t there right now. It stinks. And there’s no excuses,” Patriots quarterback Mac Jones said.

Trailing 20-17, New England had one last chance. The Patriots converted a fourth-and-4 to keep their hopes alive. But two plays later with the ball on the Commanders 41, Jones’ pass intended for JuJu-Smith Schuster went through the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Martin – sealing the win for Washington.


The Patriots entered the day thin at receiver, with Kendrick Bourne out because of a season-ending knee injury and DeVante Parker sidelined because of a concussion. Jones completed 24 of 44 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown.

New England erased an early 10-0 lead by the Commanders, who were playing their first game since trading top pass rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young.

The Patriots got back into the game in a 35-second span that included a forced fumble and a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Hunter Henry. They took a 14-10 lead a series later on a 64-yard TD run by Rhamondre Stevenson.

New England added a field goal early in the third, but Washington responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Howell to Jahan Dotson to tie the game.

“We knew it would be 1-on-1. Cover 0, there’s nobody behind him,” Howell said. “So I just tried to throw it out there and let him go get it. He did.”

Washington then took a 20-17 lead on Joey Slye’s 30-yard field goal.


That remained the score in the fourth quarter when the Commanders took over on their own 5 with 5:04 left following a Patriots punt.

Washington picked up a first down and burned some clock before punting it back with 2:29 remaining. But New England’s Mack Wilson was offsides on the play, resulting in a first down for the Commanders, who ran three more plays before punting again, pinning the Patriots at their 10 to start their final drive following a holding penalty.


Commanders defensive end James Smith-Williams walked off on his own power following a collision in the fourth quarter.


Washington defensive end KJ Henry was called for roughing the passer on a third-down sack in the third quarter for what appeared to be a clean hit on the quarterback. The play kept alive the drive and led to a field goal that increased New England’s lead to 17-10.

Referee Adrian Hill said afterward that the hit was clean, but that the flag was thrown because of how Henry landed on Jones.

“The ruling on the field was that the defender came down with forcible contact, chest-to-chest,” Hill said in a pool report. “He didn’t perform one of those acts to remove most of that body weight – a gator roll or a clear to the side when he was coming in. He came down directly with that force on the player, so the category was full body weight.”

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