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Fire alarm signals latest loss for Ron Rivera's Commanders as their season collapses

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — As metaphors go, this one was obvious as can be: A fire alarm wailed and warning lights flashed in the Washington Commanders’ locker room as defensive tackle Jonathan Allen spoke to reporters about the latest in a series of bad performances by a team that is 4-9 and getting routed on a regular basis.

A 45-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday followed a 45-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, and while head coach Ron Rivera fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and assumed his duties between the two games, the results offered little evidence of change.

“Just not a very good defense,” Allen summed up after his group allowed Tyreek Hill to score on TD passes of 78 yards and 60 yards from Tua Tagovailoa, whose passer rating was 141.0. “Can’t stop the run. Can’t stop the pass.”

And it’s not as if Washington’s offense was any good, either.

Sam Howell was 12 for 23 for 127 yards and threw a pick-6 for the third consecutive game. The player generally considered the best on the Commanders roster, receiver Terry McLaurin, was targeted merely three times and finished the day without a single catch.

“Definitely not what we wanted to do coming into the game,” Howell said.

He was answering a question about the use — or non-use — of McLaurin, but could have been referring to just about any aspect of Washington’s play against Miami (9-3). Heck, the home team even missed a field-goal try after the snap was too high.

The whole thing was why the spectators booed at halftime, when the score was 31-7, meaning Washington had been outscored 56-7 over a span of three quarters.

By the end of the afternoon, when teal-clad Miami fans were loudly chanting, “Let’s go, Dolphins!” as they filed out, the point totals looked like this during Washington’s current four-game losing skid: Opponents 150, Commanders 70.

It’s why the expectation is that Rivera will be fired after (or perhaps during) this season by the new ownership group led by Josh Harris.

Rivera kept using the word “disappointment” in his postgame news conference, but he opted for a slight variation when asked about the apparently huge gap on display the past two weeks against Dallas and Miami in a sport all about close contests and parity: “I’m disappointed that it looks that way. I really am.”

Howell’s assessment: “Been a tough couple weeks.”

Fair.

Washington’s first drive Sunday ended with a punt. Its second and third possessions both went three-and-out. And all of that was far better than the Commanders’ fourth turn with the ball, which lasted all of one play — a 33-yard interception returned for a TD by Andrew Van Ginkel on which he appeared to know exactly what the offense’s plan was and Howell threw the ball right to the Dolphins linebacker.

That made it 17-0 in the final minute of the first quarter. On the sideline right afterward, Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy marched over toward Howell, waving his play card and shouting.

Asked about the exchange, Howell offered this: “Just talking about staying positive and get ready to go again on the next drive.”

Maybe that really was the gist of what was said. Either way, Washington simply never seems ready go these days.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press