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LANDOVER, Md. – The formula for how the Washington Football Team could win was clear in training camp. But for the first eight games, it was not the plan they followed.
As that changed, Washington embarked on a winning streak that not only has it back during the playoffs, but within shouting distance of first place, Dallas in the NFC East.
After its 17-15 victory over Seattle Monday night, Washington (5-6) has won three games in a row and is two games behind the Dallas Cowboys. Washington also has the seventh and final playoff spot with six games left. Last year, Washington won five of its last seven games to win the division after opening the season 2-7.
Washington’s running game and defense have spurred the turn with both on display Monday. Seattle had only allowed 3.42 yards per carry. carry in the last five matches that went into Monday. No team during that time had rushed more than 119 yards. Washington had an average of 3.6 yards, but finished with 153.
“I still think I hate losing more than I like to win,” said Washington defensive tackle Jon Allen. “When you win, that’s what we have to do. You do not reward a fish for swimming … Now we have to look at [ourselves] with a critical eye. We can not be complacent. “
One more state: Washington controlled the ball for 41 minutes, 19 seconds.
Antonio Gibson, whose injured shin has been feeling much better lately, rushed to the season’s highest 111 yards. It topped his season high of 95 yards last week in Carolina.
In that game, Washington rushed 190 yards. It’s a feature of good blocking up front, including tight-end John Bates; movement that creates confusion for the defense and hard running.
Defensively, Washington shut down Seattle and kept its fourth opponent in a row to less than 300 yards of total offense. The Seahawks converted just 2 of 10 third downs. Receiver DK Metcalf was held to one catch in 13 yards by corners Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III.
Washington’s turnaround started with improved secondary play, with Landon Collins expanding his role and taking on some linebacker duties when not playing safety. It has allowed Washington to use three security devices, which has helped hide coverages. And the line, even without injured ends, Chase Young and Montez Sweat, remains effective.
That was what Washington expected when the season began. Although it did not win 2-6, the players went on to say that they liked what they saw in training. It enabled them to remain confident, and that confidence has only built up over the course of a three-match streak.
“We are not out of it [the hole] completely, “said coach Ron Rivera. It’s about learning and growing, and it’s all part of the process we had to go through to develop as a team. It was not to happen from one day to the next. We come together and are the team we imagined. “
Speed games: Fuller had a great night in coverage vs. Metcalf. He was physical and competed for the ball with a wideout that excels at controversial catches. But Fuller’s biggest game took place after Seattle scored with 15 seconds left of the game and went after two to equalize. Quarterback Russell Wilson had time in his pocket and Fuller interrupted his coverage of Metcalf and bounced a ball to Freddie Swain at the back of the end zone for an interception, preventing Seattle from leveling the game. Earlier in the game, Gibson rushed into Washington to convert a 2-point conversion.
QB breakdown: Taylor Heinicke played an effective game and was able to escape difficult situations in his pocket to win yards – with his arm or legs. That’s what he does best. Heinicke sometimes holds the ball for too long, but he knows he can get out of bad places to play. Heinicke was not always as precise as he needed to be; he missed seeing a few open goals. But he makes plays at crucial times; he threw for 223 yards a touchdown and an interception. He has also become a wiser manager of the game. “Confidence in that space is at a record high,” he said after the victory.
Disturbing trend: Washington’s kicking problems continue to escalate. After releasing Dustin Hopkins, Chris Blewitt blocked three kicks in two games – two in a loss in Denver, a game that could haunt Washington. Joey Slye scored his first six field goals and five extra points until he got an extra point blocked on Monday. Blewitt’s kicks were too low; Slye fell victim to a Seattle congestion that left a free rusher. But the worst for Slye: He pulled a thigh on the piece and could not kick. Washington will probably have to find another kicker.