Sam Howell, Commanders make plays late to beat Cardinals

Updated:

In their first game with new owner Josh Harris, the Washington Commanders held off the Arizona Cardinals 20-16 on Sunday before a sold-out crowd at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in the season opener for both teams.

Quarterback Sam Howell, making the second start of his career, completed 19 of 31 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown, but most important gave the Commanders a 17-16 lead on a 6-yard run with 11:48 remaining in regulation.

Washington had taken over at the Arizona 29-yard line after a strip-sack of quarterback Joshua Dobbs by defensive end Montez Sweat that defensive tackle Daron Payne recovered.

The Commanders defense limited the Cardinals to 93 yards in the second half and allowed only four first downs on 14 third-down plays in the game.

Dobbs was starting his third career game after being acquired in a trade from the Browns on Aug. 24. He also fumbled a snap on first-and-15 from the 40-yard line that was recovered by Abdullah Anderson and resulted in a 33-yard field goal by Joey Slye for the final points of the game with 2:23 remaining.

The fumble came after a 16-yard pass play to tight end Geoff Swaim to the Washington 39-yard line was negated by right guard Will Hernandez being illegally downfield.

The Cardinals piled up 122 yards lost on nine penalties. Dobbs was 21-for-30 for 132 yards, an average of 6.3 yards per completion.

The Cardinals led 13-10 at halftime despite totaling only 117 yards with five first downs to Washington’s 16 and being 1-for-6 on third down.

Three Commanders turnovers were critical, including a strip-sack by linebacker Dennis Gardeck that was recovered by linebacker Cameron Thomas, who ran two yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 lead with 55 seconds remaining in the half.

The Commanders scored first on a 7-yard pass from Howell to running back Brian Robinson Jr. with 4:15 to play in the first quarter. The 91-yard drive was helped by three Arizona penalties for 67 yards.

Cardinals kicker Matt Prater hit 28- and 54-yard field goals to cut their deficit to 7-6, the second coming after an interception by linebacker Zaven Collins.

After the Cardinals go-ahead score, Slye kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired after Howell completed three passes for 69 yards to reach field-goal range.