Commanders ride Sam Howell, late rally past Ravens to end one of sports’ strangest streaks

Sam Howell set them up. Jake Fromm knocked them down.

The Washington Commanders mounted a late fourth-quarter rally capped by a 49-yard Joey Slye Field goal for a 29-28 win over the Baltimore Ravens Monday night. The victory over Baltimore's backups broke an NFL-record 24-game preseason win streak from the Ravens that started in 2016.

The record stood since 2021 when Baltimore beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the preseason. That 20-3 win tied the Green Bay Packers (1959-62) for the longest preseason winning streak in league history at 19. Prior to Monday, the last time the Ravens lost a preseason game was a 20-19 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4 of the 2015 preseason. All 24 wins came under head coach John Harbaugh.

Baltimore's record might never be challenged. Winning 24 straight times at anything is a stunning statistical achievement, no matter the stakes — or lack thereof. The Las Vegas Raiders now claim the longest active preseason win streak with six. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won five straight.

After the game, Harbaugh spoke with reporters about what the streak meant to him.

"You're proud of it, of course," Harbaugh said. "And you appreciate it. But the thing that you're proud of is all those games are mostly just like that.

"Preseason games that people want to write about and say they don't mean anything because you never played the game. You never were out there in a preseason game. You never were fighting for a spot on the field. And yet you have the audacity to say that the effort that somebody puts into that to fight and win a game like that is meaningless."

John Harbaugh and the Ravens will have to start a new streak. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
John Harbaugh and the Ravens will have to start a new streak. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The streak was in jeopardy after a strong effort from Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, who played the first half alongside fellow starters including wide receivers Terry McLaurin, Jahan Datson and the running back tandem of Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson. The second-year, fifth-round pick out of North Carolina was recently named the team's starter for the regular season. He showed why with his passes and his poise in two quarters of play.

Howell led the Commanders to two touchdowns and a field goal in four first-half possessions as Washington took a 17-14 lead into halftime. His stint included a successful two-minute drill that concluded with an 11-yard touchdown to Dyami Brown.

He finished the half completing 19 of 25 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers, primarily against Ravens backups. He added 17 rushing yards on three carries. His biggest mistake was a second-down sack that led to third-and-15 when he had time to get rid of the ball. But he followed it up with a 17-yard completion to tight end Cole Turner in a tight window to pick up the first down. He didn't play in the second half.

Washington committed two second-half turnovers, with a Christopher Rodriguez fumble leading to Ravens touchdown that gave Baltimore a 28-20 lead. Washington had a chance to tie the game late, but a Kyu Kelly tackle of fullback Alex Armah kept Washington short of a two-point conversion.

But the Commanders had one last chance, and a drive led by backup quarterback Fromm set up Slye's game-winning field goal with nine seconds remaining.

The Commanders started the decisive drive at their own 9-yard line with 2:54 remaining. They looked done when Curtis Hodges couldn't hold on to a pass from Fromm on third-and 11 with 1:18 remaining. But a pass interference penalty by Corey Mayfield Jr. on fourth down gave Washington a new set of downs.

Fromm then completed four more passes, including an 8-yard connection with Kazmeir Allen on third-and 10 to get Slye within comfortable field goal range. From there, Slye passed his first pressure test of 2023 by sending the ball through the uprights.

Ravens starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, participated in pregame warmups. But by kickoff, most of them were in street clothes. Josh Johnson and Anthony Brown played quarterback for Baltimore, combining to complete 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.