WFT and Heinicke take advantage of second-half build-up to advance to playoffs
Good things are happening in Washington right now, and suddenly the NFC East doesn’t look so much like the Cowboys to lose.
The Washington football team responded to a four-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak heading into their Sunday game in Las Vegas.
Washington (5-6) not only comes into the game just 2 games ¹ / ₂ behind the Cowboys (8-4), but it still has both games against its rivals on the schedule, at home on December 12 and at Dallas on December 26.
Washington appears to be on a similar trajectory to last season, when it rallied to a 2-7 start to win the division and advance to the playoffs.
This trend is not unknown to Washington coach Ron Rivera. Over the course of five seasons, his Carolina and Washington teams recorded five losses in the first half of the season. In four of those seasons, his teams finished .500 or better in the second half.
“I like our resilience,” Rivera said this week. “I have a lot of respect for the way our guys handled [things]. There has been a lot of adversity around us since we’ve been here, a lot of things we had nothing to do with.
Rivera was referring to the Washington organization’s ongoing investigation into a litany of wrongdoing, the worst of which is sexual harassment in the workplace. As a result, owner Daniel Snyder withdrew from the team.
On the court, Washington lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second quarter of Game 1 of the season. The top two defensive ends, Montez Sweat (broken jaw) and Chase Young (ACL tear), were lost to injury.
Receiver Curtis Samuel, an offseason acquisition, played just three games with a groin injury, and tight end Logan Thomas missed five games with a hamstring injury. leggings.
Out of it all has emerged one of the best NFL stories this season: quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who replaced Fitzpatrick and performed well, especially on the three-game winning streak.
Heinicke was not drafted in 2015 from Old Dominion and signed with the Vikings. He then landed with the Patriots in 2017 and spent the three weeks on their practice squad. Then came a stint with the Texans, then the Rivera Panthers then a stop in XFL with the St. Louis BattleHawks in 2019.
In December 2020, Heinicke was signed to the Washington training squad and he made the most of his opportunity.
“I don’t feel surprised,” said Heinicke of the recent winning streak. “You trust all of these guys and you trust them. We are all doing what we were trained to do, we are currently performing at a high standard. If we keep doing this, we keep giving our team a chance to win. ”
Yet Washington, which enters seventh and last in the NFC play-offs on Sunday, is not taking anything for granted.
“We’re not there yet,” Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said this week.
“We are not short [the hole] completely, ”Rivera said. “It wasn’t going to happen overnight. We come together and form the team we envisioned.