DENVER -- The Washington Commanders found themselves with a new owner this summer. Now, after two games, they find themselves with a new outlook.
The Commanders are 2-0 for the first time in 12 years after their best comeback since 2015, when then-quarterback Kirk Cousins shouted, "You like that!?" after rallying from 24 down. Sunday, Washington rallied from a 21-3 deficit to beat the Denver Broncos 35-33, after defending a 2-point conversion on the game's final play.
Washington rallied for the second time this season after doing so in the opener vs. Arizona, though that was only a six-point second-half deficit. The franchise has not started 3-0 since 2005, also the last season it won a playoff game. Washington hosts the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
It was Washington's biggest road comeback win since a 21-point rally in 1990 vs. Detroit.
"It just feels different," Washington tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. "And I said that last week. I'm telling you it feels different. I just feel like this team we're resilient. We just find ways to win. It doesn't matter what the score is, doesn't matter what the situation is. It's all about getting a W."
The Commanders fell behind by 18 points with nine minutes, seven seconds left in the second quarter. It nearly got worse after the Commanders allowed a 45-yard punt return to their 40-yard line. But on second-and-15, linebacker Jamin Davis forced a fumble of Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson that was recovered by linebacker Cody Barton. That led to Washington's first touchdown.
After that point, Washington outscored Denver 32-6 -- until the Broncos scored on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.
"It really tells them they are capable," said Washington coach Ron Rivera, who received a game ball from owner Josh Harris after his 100th career regular-season victory. "They stick to it, they stick to it. The crazy part is we were kind of waiting for something good to happen, and when Jamin got the [fumble] that really gave us a bit of a jolt."
Washington has outscored its opponents 34-15 in the second half.
"It was a tough and grueling camp, but we knew it would prepare us for the fourth quarter," said Washington receiver Terry McLaurin, who caught a 30-yard touchdown pass. "I'm proud of the way we finished. We have to get off to a better start."
That was the flip side for Rivera as well. While it's nice to post consecutive comebacks, it's a tough way to live.
"We gained momentum when we got the takeaways," Rivera said. "That's one of the things our guys have to understand, that we are opportunistic. We just have to make sure we can create earlier. That way it won't be as much of a struggle."
It was also quarterback Sam Howell's first road start -- and win. He's now 3-0 as a starter dating back to last year's regular-season finale. Howell finished strong, completing 8 of 9 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns overall.
At times early in the game he and the protection struggled with Denver's defense. But he led Washington to points on five of its last six possessions -- and the lone failure was a 59-yard missed field goal.
"When a guy can maintain that poise in front of his teammates, I think that really helps him," Rivera said. "And it's like he's unflappable and he really handles it very, very well. It was exciting to see him do some of the things that he did today. Those are things we're going to build on."