Washington ‘has not arrived yet’ despite hot streak, 2020 comparisons – NFL Nation

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LANDOVER, Md. – The last drive began with almost 11 minutes left of the game, with the Washington Football Team having an eight-point lead. During the two previous victories, Washington used time-consuming drives to drain the clock and finish with points.

On Monday, as players began to repeat that success, it was natural to think: Here they go again. And now, in the midst of a three-game winning streak, one year after closing out strongly to win NFC East, it’s natural to ask: Can they do it again?

Washington’s 17-15 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Monday moved it into the NFC’s seventh and final playoff spot – a position no one predicted for it as it went into farewell week 2-6. Washington (5-6) is now two games behind first-place Dallas Cowboys; it was four games left before the streak started. There are six games left, so anything is possible – including a collapse.

“We have not arrived yet,” said Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen.

Washington gathered from a 2-7 hole to win the NFC East in 2020, but it is very unlikely it can win the division this season with a record of under,500. However, it can be done with a wildcard spot, and Washington is more tested in 2021.

It lost its starting quarterback, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, in the second quarter of the season opener. It has not had its starting defensive ends on the field together during the winning streak – Montez Sweat missed the matches with a broken jaw; Chase Young tore his ACL during the first win in a row against Tampa Bay. The offense is down at its fourth center.

A valued offseason acquisition, receiver Curtis Samuel, has only appeared in three games but finally appears to have recovered from his groin injury. Their top tight-end, Logan Thomas, missed five games with a hamstring injury.

Last season, Washington was partly led by quarterback Alex Smith and his comeback history. This season, it’s Taylor Heinicke and his NFL rags-to-riches story.

So there are similarities, but in many ways this team is better. Of his six losses, five have come to teams that currently have a winning record. Last season, six of the nine losses to teams ended in losing records.

And this team’s loss ratio speaks to its depth. In coach Ron Rivera’s first offseason, the organization bypassed big name free agents, but added depth and cheap standouts. It included key players like Thomas, running back JD McKissic and safety Kamren Curl, a seventh-round pick who has become a valuable starter. Other backups such as offensive linemen Cornelius Lucas and Wes Schweitzer became starters due to injuries to others.

In the low season, the Washington veteran signed offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr., who has started and had a solid season, and switched left guard Ereck Flowers, who has done the same. Journeyman returner / receiver DeAndre Carter has become a major contributor to the offense with 18 catches and three touchdowns.

“We have better players in positions, and part of the reason they’re better is because they’re a year older, and part of the reason they’re better is just because they’re better.” said Rivera. “I like what we did with the offensive line. That group is better.”

Defensively, their three-safety alignment with Curl, Landon Collins and Bobby McCain has been beneficial – especially with Collins and Curl. Collins would prefer to play full-time safety, but has embraced the role of hybrid safety / linebacker, while Curl’s ability to play deep or in the box allows for versatility in playcalling.

After Monday’s match, Heinicke threw a stone at a blackboard in the locker room – symbolizing David taking Goliath down. It’s a new tradition started by Rivera after the team disrupted Tampa Bay on November 18th. Rivera said they will continue this theme even if they continue to win.

“Mostly because of the perception out there,” he said. “That’s something these guys are reasoning with.”

Not that they always feel like heavy underdogs.

“I do not feel I am surprised,” Heinicke said of the streak. “You have faith in all those guys and you trust them. We all do what we’re trained to do, we’re executing at a high level right now. If we keep doing this, we’ll keep doing give our team a chance to win. “

There is also binding. During his post-match press conference, Heinicke shone as he gave the offensive line a “shoutout” for its work during the streak, despite several players being injured. At the end of Thomas’ press conference, he asked the media if he could say one thing. Then he declared: “Kam Curl is a top-five safety in this league.”

Rivera’s coaching career has offered strong endings. His record in the last eight games over an entire season was 42-30 this season. In the five seasons that his team had a losing record in the first half, they finished with a winner in the second half four times.

This year, Washington has played a difficult program and suffered injuries. It has lost its two best coaches to a DEA survey. Still, the team has persevered.

“I love our resilience,” Rivera said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for the way our guys have handled it. There’s been a lot of adversity since we got here, a lot of it we had nothing to do with.”

Last season, they handled it and eventually won. They have started doing the same thing this year.

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