LANDOVER — Ron Rivera walked back into the locker room, saw Sam Howell sitting at his locker with his head down and asked the young quarterback, “You all right?”
Rivera hunched over and talked to Howell for almost a minute before giving him a tap of encouragement on the right leg.
Others followed to console Howell after the worst game of his NFL career contributed to another embarrassing defeat in a season with a few of them.
Howell threw three interceptions among six Commanders turnovers, and Washington may have reached the low point of Rivera’s tenure as coach with a 31-19 home loss Sunday to the last-place New York Giants.
The ugly game got even smellier afterward, when there was no hot water in the stadium for players to shower.
“It is a low point, that’s for sure,” Rivera said 11 games into his fourth season with Washington. “Anytime you’ve got an opportunity to win a football game and you put the numbers up you did and you get a chance, you’ve got to come through.”
His team did not. The Commanders (4-7) lost to the Giants (3-8) for the second time this season, this time to undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito, who picked up his first NFL win in his second start.
Washington has lost seven of nine since opening with back-to-back victories, falling out of the playoff race despite a mediocre field of teams competing for three NFC wild-card spots.
“This is a winnable game,” right guard Sam Cosmi said. “The fact that we couldn’t win the game, I’m kind of at a loss for words, to be completely honest with you. Sloppy football, way too many turnovers.”
After a late comeback bid was ended by Isaiah Simmons picking off Howell and returning it 54 yards for a touchdown with 16 seconds left, Rivera’s future, and that of the entire coaching staff and front office, is squarely in the forefront in the first season since Josh Harris’ ownership group bought the team.
Favored by more than a touchdown, the Commanders fumbled in nearly every possible way: Logan Thomas after a catch, Byron Pringle on a kickoff return and Chris Rodriguez Jr. on a run.
Inexplicable picks by Howell — lauded by players and coaches in recent weeks as the franchise’s potential QB of the future — came in the first and fourth quarters.
“When you turn the ball over that many times, you’re not going to win games,” said Howell, who was 31-for-45 for 255 yards passing. “It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job taking care of the football. I didn’t give my team a chance to win.”
The giveaways made it impossible for Washington to get back into the game against New York, which scored a first-quarter TD for the first time all season. The Giants never trailed and won for the first time since Oct. 22, when they beat the Commanders 14-7 at the Meadowlands.
Down the East Coast, the result was the same even with DeVito stepping in for injured backup Tyrod Taylor. The 25-year-old third-stringer, who still lives with his family in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, completed 18 of 26 passes for 246 yards and three TD passes: two to Saquon Barkley and one to Darius Slayton.
“Tommy has put the work in — the players have confidence in him,” coach Brian Daboll said. “Good job to the whole team. Team win. Certainly proud of Tommy.”
The Giants dominated despite allowing DeVito to be sacked nine times and rushing for 0 yards as a team in the first half. The defense intervered, with Nick McLoud forcing a fumble and making his first interception among the big plays by the unit.
Howell was also sacked four times in a back-to-earth game for the second-year pro who entered with the most passing yards in the league. He threw a late 8-yard TD pass to Jahan Dotson and led another drive to the New York 48 before his third interception sealed it.
“You can’t turn the ball over, and you can’t allow a couple of big plays,” Rivera said. “I thought [Howell] had his moments. He took a shot early on and, not sure if that was a good decision, but he had some really good moments, moved the ball really well and just can’t turn it over and kill your own drive.”