If you look at different parts of the Washington Football Team on different weeks, you’ll eventually convince yourself this is a playoff team given the plate of soggy nachos that is the NFC East.
With the last three losses by the Burgundy & Gold coming by a combined seven points, one might think they’re just a touchdown away from a 5-4 start and lead in the division. That’s what makes each of the last three losses all the more tough to swallow. A play here or there was needed to be made, and it wasn’t. An ill-timed reverse loses yards before a sack that puts the offense out of field goal range. A missed field goal and a fumble took even more points off of the board in what would turn into a three-point loss. And with overtime imminent and an unfortunate roughing, the passer penalty moves the Detroit Lions into field goal range as Washington Football falls 30-27.
From a pass rush that’s looked dominant at times to an offense that occasionally resembles something from the 21st century, there are possibilities up and down this roster. Unfortunately, this team’s whole is less than the sum of its parts, and 2020 is the year of “not quite.”
WFT still has work to do if they want to become a work in progress. Pull back from the small sample size that has you convinced there are possibilities, and the big picture still needs a lot of work. Your eyes can’t lie to you all the time, especially in the NFL’s snapshot world.
Calling Disney — how have we not heard of the Ryan Gosling movie getting greenlit yet? Are they waiting until the new 007 movie comes out?
Alex Smith threw for a career-high 390 yards as he rallied the Burgundy & Gold back from a 21-point second half deficit. Back-to-back 300-yard games for the first time in his career. We’ll take recommendations on casting choices from Head Coach Ron Rivera to WTOP WFT reporter George Wallace, but Gosling as Smith is nonnegotiable.
Running with Potential — The double-digit deficit put the kibosh on trying to establish the run, but Antonio Gibson did rush for 45 yards and two touchdowns while J.D. McKissic ran for a score while also converting on a pair of third downs. Factor in the duos’ “long handoffs” in the form of receptions (McKissic caught seven passes while Gibson added four) and the tandem might not equal Adrian Peterson, but they’re generating something.
TMC Airways — Terry McLaurin caught seven passes for 95 yards while also adding a 27-yard run. He’s on pace for 101 receptions and 1,399 yards (each is third most in franchise history). Logan Thomas averaged more than 10 yards per catch for the third time in four games. Steven Sims, Cam Sims and Isaiah Wright combined for 15 catches, mostly of the short variety.
Third and Something — The Burgundy & Gold moved the chains on seven of 15 attempts, running three times (and converting all three) while passing on the other 12. Alex Smith completed six of 10 passes for four conversions while getting sacked twice. His top target? J.D. McKissic caught one pass (for a first down) on four balls thrown his way. Yardage Breakdown: 4-5 on short-yardage, 1-4 on medium (needing four to six yards) yardage, 2-for-6 on long-yardage. Now if only they can eliminate the sack for 14 yards to push them out of field goal range.
Getting Defensive — OK, so 17 first half points plus allowing a TD on the first drive of the second half, is not ideal. But they did hold the Lions to a pair of field goals the rest of the way, and limit Detroit to 4-10 on third down. Kamren Curl and Kendall Fuller paced the team with eight tackles apiece. I’ve never been a fan of two defensive backs having the most stops because it either means passes are getting completed against them or the front seven isn’t stopping the run/short passes.
Special Situations — Dustin Hopkins converted 2-3 field goal attempts, making 38 and 41-yarders while missing from 43. He also sent all six of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Tress Way averaged 38.5 yards over his two punts with one landing inside the 20-yard line and no touchbacks. Danny Johnson notched a 46-yard kickoff return. The coverage teams didn’t suffer any disasters.
Flying Flags — Six penalties for 58 yards. We know which one was the mostly costly: The roughing the passer call against Chase Young. One other penalty was against the defense (Kevin Pierre-Louis for lowering the head while tackling), three were on offense (false start, delay of game, illegal use of the hands), and one was on special teams (holding). Holds and false starts combine for 11 of the WFT’s 46 penalties this fall.
Digesting the Division — Philadelphia (3-5-1) stays atop the league’s sorriest quartet even though they lost 27-17 to the New York Giants. The G-men (3-7) are the hottest team in the division, but are still in 13th place of the NFC. The WFT team (2-7) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Dallas in a duel of 2-7 teams that are in 15th and 16th place.
North Stars — The AFC North is a league-best 23-12-1, just a little bit better than the 22-15 NFC West. The NFC East isn’t just in dead last at 10-26-1, it’s also five games behind the seventh place division (AFC South). It’s going to have four more wins (or the equivalent of if there are ties) coming due to divisional play, meaning it’ll need to win eight of 19 remaining non-division games to not post the worst division record ever.