3 Takeaways from WFT's Week 12 Win
The Football Team controlled the game on the ground and played a tough, physical brand of defense that we didn't see early in the season. Washington held the ball for nearly 42 minutes of game clock. This largely forced the Seahawks to rely on a boom-or-bust offensive game plan centered around quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wilson was solid—he finished 20-of-31 for 247 yards and two touchdowns—but he didn't have the time in the pocket to regularly push the ball downfield.
It was a winning formula that notched Washington its third consecutive victory. Here's what we learned during the game.
The Defense Is Rounding Back into Form
The Football Team made the postseason in 2020 thanks largely to a stellar defense. The unit finished second in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed. It nearly helped Washington knock off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round.
However, Washington's defense was a mess early this year. Between Weeks 2 and 7, it allowed at least 24 points in every game. For the season, Washington still ranks 25th in points allowed. Over the last month, though, the defense has started to look like last year's squad once more.
The Football Team is 3-1 in its last four games and has won three straight. In those last four games, Washington has now allowed more than 21 points. On Monday, the defense shut down Seattle's running game, regularly harassed Wilson and stopped a two-point try in the closing seconds.
Seattle's offense scored just 13 points—two came on a blocked point-after attempt—had just 34 yards on the ground and produced a mere 10 first downs. Wilson was only sacked twice but faced plenty of pressure. Taking away his 55-yard strike to Tyler Lockett, Wilson averaged just 6.4 yards per pass attempt.
The fact that Washington's defense dominated even with Chase Young and Montez Sweat on injured reserve is a strong sign that the team's playoff-caliber defense is back.
The Football Team Has Two Very Good Running Backs
A national audience got a good look at one of the better running back tandems on Monday. Antonio Gibson was a rookie darling with which many fans are likely already familiar. The third-round pick out of Memphis topped 1,000 scrimmage yards and rushed for 11 touchdowns in his inaugural campaign.
Those outside of fantasy may be less familiar with J.D. McKissic, who has nevertheless been one of the league's best receiving backs over the last couple of seasons.
Both backs were fantastic on Monday. Gibson rushed for 111 yards and caught seven passes for 35 yards. McKissic rushed for 30 and a touchdown while catching five for 26 and another score. They helped wear down Seattle's defense over the course of the game and provided quarterback Taylor Heinicke with consistent outlet options.
The latter part of the equation is easy to overlook, but it was an important piece of the game plan. With Heinicke able to make easy completions underneath, he kept the chains moving on an efficient 27-of-35 night.
Heinicke did have one interception off of a deflection but played the game-manager role to near-perfection. That may be all Washington needs from its quarterback to continue winning because this backfield duo is capable of carrying the offense.
This Might Just Be a Playoff Team
Here's perhaps the biggest takeaway from Monday's win: Washington might just pull itself back into the postseason. The three-game winning streak has the Football Team sitting at 5-6. If the season ended today, that would be good enough for the NFC's No. 7 seed and final wild-card spot.
Of course, the season isn't going to end today.
"We're not out of [the hole] completely," head coach Ron Rivera said, per ESPN's John Keim. "It's about learning and growing and it's all part of the process we had to go through to develop as a team."
Washington has a lot of football left to play. A tough road matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders looms in Week 13, and the season ends with five straight games against NFC East opponents. Losing two of the final six games might be enough to knock Washington out of the playoff mix.
However, the team we saw on Monday night is capable of going on a run. With a resurgent defense, a strong ground game, a capable quarterback and an experienced head coach, Washington can be a legitimate postseason threat.
The Football Team might not play the prettiest style of ball, but it is finding out how to win at exactly the right time.