Commanders' defense disappoints Magic Johnson for contributing to a loss that dropped them to 4-6

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Magic Johnson knew where to place the blame after the Washington Commanders' latest loss, which he called heartbreaking.

“Defensively, we couldn’t come up with a big play to stop Seattle during their last two drives,” Johnson posted on social media.

The most well-known member of the team's new ownership group won't find any argument from the coaching staff following a 29-26 defeat at Seattle that dropped the Commanders to 4-6 and put another dent in their already fragile playoff hopes. With the last-place New York Giants coming to town Sunday, there's still hope of getting in the race, but that starts with fixing some of the defensive woes that have hurt Washington all season.

“Collectively, we have to be better overall,” coach Ron Rivera said during a video call with reporters Monday. “We’re playing a number of different guys now, especially after ( trading pass rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat ), and there’s some cohesion that has to come. Guys have got to come together and work together. ... We all have to be better.”

The Seahawks' 489 yards were the most amassed by an opponent this season, and the Commanders have allowed 400 or more in nine of their 10 games. With the game swinging back and forth late, 125 of those yards came on Seattle's final two scoring drives.

“They just executed better than us," defensive end Casey Toohill said. "I just think on all levels we didn’t do well enough there.”

It didn't help the Commanders not to have rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes for much of the game after he was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett. It was the latest dip in the first-round pick's roller-coaster season that also included being benched for his struggling play.

WHAT’S WORKING

Washington's offense is still pass-heavy after quarterback Sam Howell dropped back to throw 47 times to 14 rushing attempts, but there was more substance to the running game. Brian Robinson Jr., who had a 51-yard touchdown catch, averaged 4.8 yards on eight carries.

“Our plan is just to execute our game plan," Robinson said. “Whatever play is called, we’ve just got to go execute. We aren't banking on passing more or running more. Whatever is called, we’ve got to go execute.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Big plays continue to doom the defense. The Seahawks had four plays of 20-plus yards, including a 64-yard catch-and-run TD from Geno Smith to Kenneth Walker III.

“A 3-yard pass shouldn’t go 64 yards,” cornerback Kendall Fuller said. "That’s something in zone coverage we have to be able to break to the ball better, get off blocks, and allow our defense to line up.”

STOCK UP

Despite losing a fumble, Howell continues to provide evidence he might be the long-awaited franchise QB. The second-year pro completed 29 of 44 passes for 312 yards and two TDs without an interception, leading a drive that tied the score with a minute left.

“Young man played hard, played well,” Rivera said. “He gave us an opportunity to win. That’s the biggest thing you can ask from the quarterback: Put you in position to win.”

STOCK DOWN

CB Benjamin St-Juste was flagged twice late in the game: once for pass interference on fourth-and-6 and again for a facemask penalty. He was also in coverage when Smith found Lockett in the end zone for a touchdown.

“I feel like I cost my team this win,” St-Juste said. “It just speaks to the fact that I need to put more work in and understand where I’m at.”

INJURIES

James Smith-Williams, one of the young pass rushers promoted to fill in for Young and Sweat, left the Seahawks game with a right hamstring injury. Rivera did not have an update on Smith-Williams' status when asked Monday.

KEY NUMBER

4 — Third-down conversions on 14 chances by Seattle, the second consecutive game Washington has held an opponent under 30%.

NEXT STEPS

They'd better include beating the woeful Giants, or even the optimism about Howell's development will feel hollow. The Commanders opened as 9 1/2-point favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook despite losing at New York last month, and this is as close to a must-win game as they could get.

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