A blowout loss one week and a heartbreaking overtime defeat the next have seen Sam Howell and the Washington Commanders run an emotional gamut of defeat.
Facing a winless Chicago Bears squad might well be the best remedy for the Commanders' ills, but Howell isn't about to look past his Thursday night opponent, 0-4 or not.
"Obviously, the record is what it is, but it's definitely not a team you can take lightly," Howell said, via team transcript, Tuesday when asked to assess the Bears' defense. "There's no easy games in the NFL and they have a lot of really good players on their defense and they fly around. They play hard and you can tell they want to win and it's definitely a challenge for us and we definitely have our hands full."
Following a 2-0 start, the Commanders have lost their last two in starkly different ways. Still, those losses came against a pair of first-place teams among the NFL's elite.
In a Week 3 drubbing against the Buffalo Bills, Howell was smacked around and sacked nine times. He also threw four interceptions during the 37-3 loss. The Bears have half as many interceptions and seven fewer sacks all season.
In a Week 4 nail-biter against the Philadelphia Eagles, Howell and Co. lost, 34-31, to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears have lost their two games against opponents with a winning record by an average of 20.5 points.
Will the bad news Bears be good news for the Commanders? Howell, in just his second season, is savvy enough not to look past Chicago or at least provide any bulletin board material despite facing off with the 31st-ranked defense in points allowed.
"It's definitely a tough defense," Howell said. "Every defense in the NFL is tough to play against, so you definitely got to be ready to go and you got to prepare. We're excited for the challenge."
Not about to look past the Bears' struggling defense, Howell also isn't one for comparing himself to other young quarterbacks he opposes. Thus, when the 2022 NFL Draft fifth-rounder plays opposite 2021 first-rounder Justin Fields, Howell's just going to be worrying about his own performance.
"I really don't measure myself up against anyone else in the league," Howell said. "I just try to be the best version of myself, the best player that I can be each and every week and kind of just let my play do the talking, but I don't look and try to say I'm trying to be better than whoever. Justin's a heck of a player and he's done some really good things. Had a good week last week, so we definitely have our hands full with him, it'll be a fun matchup."
Fields is on the heels of what was easily his finest performance this season, having completed 28 of 35 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns against a previously winless Denver Broncos squad in a 31-28 loss.
On the season, Fields has completed 64.2% of his passes for seven touchdowns, 861 yards and five interceptions.
Howell has completed 67.1% of his passes for four touchdowns, 961 yards and five interceptions.
The most striking difference is that Howell has started five career games dating back to his NFL debut in 2022 and is 3-2 as a starter. Fields, over the last two seasons, has won just as many games (three) in 19 starts.
At least on paper, Howell and the Commanders are in prime position in prime time to bounce back from a two-game skid.
"We have a short week so we can't really think about the Philly game too much just because we have so much preparation to do in a short amount of time to get ready for Thursday night," Howell said. "I think it's good for us that we have this Thursday night game this week. Hopefully we can go out there and put our best foot forward and have a chance to win."