The Washington Football Team is back in the win column after a 20-9 victory over the Bengals on Sunday. Washington is now just a half game out of first place in the NFC East, with a trip to Dallas looming on Thanksgiving.
“It feels good, trust me,” head coach Ron Rivera said after the game.
Here are four take-aways from the win.
Alex Smith gets his first win in two years
It was nearly two years to the day since quarterback Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury at FedEx Field. He has officially come all the way back, earning his first win in two years.
He didn’t have the explosive yardage that he posted the last few weeks but managed the game very efficiently, finishing 17-of-25 for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception. On the touchdown pass to Steven Sims Jr., Smith stood in the pocket and took a big hit but completed the pass for the score.
His work ethic and attitude have not gone unnoticed as receiver Terry McLaurin echoed what a lot of his teammates say about the quarterback.
“He never makes it about him,” he said. “He makes it about the team. To see him come back and get a win as a starter, that’s not only motivation to us as players, but to everyone.”
To be talking about Smith as the starting quarterback of this team and him not showing signs of relinquishing the position is quite remarkable.
McLaurin and Gibson continue to produce
Smith has definitely found a friend in McLaurin. The second-year wideout continues to be the guy Smith goes to when he needs a completion.
The big play Sunday came on Washington’s first touchdown drive of the game. After a Bengals missed field goal, Smith took the team down the field on a 76-yard drive, with the big play coming on a 42-yard completion to McLaurin. He finished with five receptions on seven targets for 84 yards. He has 871 yards on 62 catches for the year, surpassing last year’s reception total of 58.
On the ground, Antonio Gibson led the team with 94 yards rushing and a touchdown. After just 19 yards in the first half, he had 75 in the second. Gibson now has eight touchdowns, the most among rookie backs.
The game changed when Burrow left with an injury
Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow was having a solid game when he injured his knee. He was very tactical in leading the Bengals up and down the field, and the Washington defense appeared to have issues solving him. He was 22-of-34 for 203 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals were leading the game 9-7 when second-year quarterback Ryan Finley entered to replace Burrow.
Washington’s defense harassed him the rest of the game, as he finished 3-of-10 for 30 yards and an interception while being sacked four times. The Bengals managed just 25 yards in the second half.
Battle for first place looming
If I had told you when the schedule came out that on Thanksgiving Washington would be facing Dallas for first place in the NFC East, what do you think the records would be?
I guarantee you that 3-7 would not have come out of your mouth. But, here we are.
Thanks to their first win over the Bengals since 1991 — yes that was the Super Bowl year — Washington is just a half-game behind the Eagles after Philadelphia’s loss to Cleveland.
After the game on Thursday in Dallas, the schedule gets much tougher, with trips to Pittsburgh and San Francisco on the horizon, followed by a home game against the Seahawks.
So, if they really do want a shot at this division, they need to win Thursday and sweep the Cowboys.