Exhausted Washington was eliminated from the NFL playoffs after the recent hard-fought loss, but sees a bright future – NFL Nation

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LANDOVER, Md. – The Washington Football Team collapsed down the stretch, losing four in a row as they reached the season finale next Sunday against the New York Giants. It also placed more than half of its list on the reserve / COVID-19 list during this period and lost other key players to injuries or personal situations.

While Washington (6-10) examines why it again failed to gather consecutive playoff seasons, it can look at the last four games and point to the absence of players. But it may just as well point to defeat earlier in the season, when the team was healthy, which cost it a shot in the off-season. And it would be wrong to blame Sunday’s 20-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) solely on who was missing.

“It’s a bit of both,” said Washington recipient Terry McLaurin. “We’ve been through some adversity with COVID-19 and personal tragedies and adversity we’ve had throughout the season.”

But McLaurin said that is not an excuse.

“I do not think anyone would say that was why we did not get it done. We just did not get it done,” he said. “Every team deals with something during this part of the season – injuries, COVID – so by no means do I want it to be out there, that it was an apology or a crutch.”

Sunday proved to be another sad playoff elimination for a franchise that has not reached the offseason this year in a row since 1991-92. It featured another home game where the opposing fans were outnumbered by Washington.

A year ago, Washington reached the playoffs with a record of 7-9 and won five of the last seven games of the regular season. It should be a springboard towards more success in 2021. But a 2-6 start where a defense that was supposed to be a team strength played poorly left the team in a big hole. Two of those losses were particularly frustrating: a 33-22 home loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 5 that included two coverage errors that led to the Saints TDs, and a 17-10 road loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 8 when Washington had two field goal attempts blocked.

Washington seemed to be in good shape as it won four in a row to equalize its record of 6-6, but that was when more injuries and the pandemic hit. A team with a small margin of error suddenly had none. In the past month, 36 players have been placed on the reserve / COVID-19 list, with almost all having emerged after the winning streak of four games. The team played Sunday minus 12 players expected to be starters this season, whether they were injuries, COVID-19 or personal tragedies (defensive Montez Sweat missed the match after his brother was shot and killed on Tuesday).

“It’s simple and straightforward,” linebacker Cole Holcomb said. “Did we get the job or not? It doesn’t matter who plays. If a guy had a job to do, did he get it done or not?”

Washington managed 231 yards in the first half against the Eagles, but it was two red zone errors that resulted in field goals that made the difference. A break of 16-7 could have been 24-7 with better performance. And the offense had the ball on the Eagles’ 20 with 30 seconds left of the game when quarterback Taylor Heinicke was intercepted at a game where coach Ron Rivera wanted passing interference called.

Still, Washington could have won. That’s why, when Rivera was subsequently asked if Sunday was a microcosm of their season, Rivera said, “So much.”

After Washington equalized its record, it felt good to know what awaited: Five consecutive NFC East fights to end the season. The team was able to cope. Instead, it lost twice to Dallas, second time by 42 points and twice to Philadelphia by a total of 14 points. In the first Philadelphia loss, Washington quarterback Garrett Gilbert started, who had arrived five days earlier.

“It could make or break your season, and it kind of cracked bears,” McLaurin said of those fights.

Not that it has made Washington feel that it is far behind others in the division when looking at the future.

“Of course we were beaten by Dallas a few times,” Heinicke said. “But between the other two teams, I feel like we’s just as good, if not better. And I think all the guys in the locker room will tell you the same thing. So it’s just unfortunate.”

Washington, which travels to meet the Giants on Sunday, needs better health in 2022, but each team is suffering from injuries, so it can not just rely on having everyone back.

It needs to find a consistent quarterback who is capable of stronger play. It is necessary to find a real midfielder in the defense. It takes young defensive Chase Young to play like he did in the second half of his rookie season (4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries) and not the eight games he played this season before tearing his ACL (1.5 sacks, 2). forced fumbles).

“The sky is the limit for this team,” Holcomb said. “We need to start faster at the start of the season and then get some pieces back.”

And they need to play better when they have all their players. With improved execution here and there, Washington would have gone into the final four games with more of a pillow.

“We have moments,” Rivera said. “However, we still have a long way to go. We will continue to grow, but we showed what we are capable of. We sometimes showed resilience, and sometimes it was overwhelming. That’s a good word for the last couple of weeks for these guys … I think it’s something we want to grow from, we want to learn from. “

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