Burgundy & Gold Grab Bag: In the driver’s seat despite grinding gears

Washington’s 20-15 loss to Seattle ended its winning streak at four, but the Burgundy and Gold remains in the NFC East’s driver’s seat.

A win at home against Carolina, plus a Giants loss at Baltimore next Sunday, wraps up the first division title since 2015. What to make of a game where Washington outgained the NFC West leaders by 51 yards, had 10 more first downs (26-16) and had the ball for over 32 minutes yet still lost?

Here’s this week’s look behind and below the numbers:

Haskins Has Numbers — Dwayne threw for 295 yards and a touchdown while tossing two interceptions. Both picks were deep throws on the Seattle half of the field. I’m not going to do the math and figure what two field goals would have done this past Sunday. On the bright side, he led the team to a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. With 1:18 left, Haskins had this team trailing by five in a 1st & 10 at Seattle’s 23. But just as those two interceptions stung, the sacks taken on 2nd & 3rd down in the final minutes hurt.

Running — Minus Antonio Gibson, Washington was held to 84 yards on 20 carries with the firm of McKissic & Barber accounting for 56 yards on 17 attempts. But J.D. McKissic caught nine passes for 56 yards (essentially “long handoffs”) to help the cause. The offseason pickup has a career-high 67 receptions after recording 70 catches over his first four seasons in the league.

Run TMC — After being held to four receptions for 38 yards the previous two weeks, Terry McLaurin caught seven passes for 77 yards to put him back on track for 91 and 1,232 on the season. But the captain has gone six games without a touchdown catch and remains stuck at three on the year. Logan Thomas notched a career high 13 catches for 101 yards. He’s been the security blanket for whoever is playing QB this fall.

Third Down Thoughts — Washington converted 10-17 money downs, with Peyton Barber carrying the ball twice to reach the marker. Of the 15 pass plays Dwayne Haskins was sacked twice, but he completed 11-13 passes for eight conversions. The top target? Terry McLaurin caught all four passes thrown his way and got the necessary yardage three times. Yardage breakdown: 3-3 on short-yardage, 5-6 on medium (needing 4-6 yards) yardage, 2-8 on long-yardage.

Breaking vs. Bending Defense — The D got off of the field on seven of 12 Seattle third downs while holding the visitors to 10 points under their average for the season. The longest completion allowed to Russell Wilson and company was 15 yards. But the defense allowed a pair of game-changing plays on the Seahawks’ two touchdown drives: The first was a 38-yard scramble by Russell Wilson on a 2nd & 7 that put Seattle on the Washington 30 and the second was a 50-yard scamper for a score by Carlos Hyde. Kamren Curl and Khaleke Hudson each recorded eight tackles but the pass rush failed to register a sack.

Special Situations — Tress Way averaged 45.5 yards per punt. Dustin Hopkins connected on a 48-yard field goal while missing an extra point. His three non-squib kickoffs went for touchbacks. Danny Johnson had kickoff returns of 20 and 22 yards while Steven Sims had punt returns of zero and minus-two yards. The kickoff coverage team allowed an eight-yard return at the end of the first half off of that squib and the punt coverage team allowed a 15-yarder that set up the Seahawks’ first field goal of the day.

Flying Flags — Six penalties for 41 yards, with a pair of penalties declined. One on the offense (false start), three on the defense (two offsides and a pass interference), and two on special teams (false start and a hold). Montez Sweat was whistled for an offsides to give him a team-high nine on the season. The top penalty remains the false start (13) while there have been 10 holds on offense/special teams. Sunday’s most costly flag? A pass interference on Shaun Dion Hamilton gave Seattle a 1st & 10 at the Washington 13 en route to its first touchdown of the day after being held at bay for most of the first half.

Digesting the Division — Even with the loss, Washington is in first place at 6-8 and owns the No. 4 seed in the NFC (the Rams come to FedEx Field if the season were to end today). Red-hot Dallas (two straight wins and a 5-9 record) moves into second place thanks to a victory over San Francisco (the Cowboys are 11th in the NFC) while the New York Giants (5-9) slip to third place thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker with Dallas (Dallas is 13th in the NFC because of its loss to San Francisco). Philadelphia at 4-9-1 is in last place and in 14th place of the conference, but can still win the NFC East with two wins plus a Washington loss to Carolina and losses by the Giants and Dallas this weekend.

North and West are Best — The AFC North (32-21-3) owns the best record of the quartets entering the final week where teams play non-division games, with the NFC West (32-24) close behind. The AFC West (30-26) is the only other quartet with a combined winning record at this time. The NFC East is 20-35-1 and barring ties guaranteed to finish with at least 23 wins, pushing it past the 2007 NFC West as the worst in modern history. The interconference contest is wrapped up with the AFC taking a commanding 33-26-1 lead. For the record, over the last 12 years the conference with more regular season victories is 7-5 in the Super Bowl.

Elimination Island — Joining the fray this week are Carolina (4-10), Detroit (5-9), and San Francisco (5-9) in the NFC with Denver (5-9) and New England (6-8) no longer in AFC playoff contention. The Patriots’ demise is something special as not only does the team’s 11-year reign as AFC East champs officially ends, but this is the earliest the Patriots have been eliminated from playoff contention since the year 2000 (the 3-9 Pats were out of it in week 13). Even in two non-playoff seasons during the Belichick/Brady era, the Pats still finished tied for first in the division but missed out on the postseason due to tiebreakers. So let’s raise a glass to the Pax Patriotica that was. We’ll likely never see its kind anytime soon.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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