The season’s second victory Tuesday!
Despite playing most of the game with its 4th string center, and the entire second half with no kicker, Washington put together a win over the Seattle Seahawks, ending a drought in home games on Monday Night Football that stretched back to Methuselah’s teenage years.
A wild finish
Anyone on the east coast who gave into the need for sleep and went to bed before the end of the game missed a wild finish that featured an overturned touchdown reception, a 96-yard touchdown drive, an intercepted two-point conversion, and two onside kick attempts by the Seahawks to cap a 17-15 Washington victory.
Had kicker Joey Slye not gotten injured at the end of the first half, the Football Team could have sealed the victory with a field goal on 4th down with 2:25 left in the game. Instead, with Slye unable to kick, Washington went for it, and Taylor Heinicke hit Logan Thomas for a TD to ice the game — except that the replay officials intervened. After about 6 minutes of replays and a dozen camera angles, the replay officials overruled the call on the field, saying that there was enough video evidence to determine that Washington’s big tight end had lost control of the ball.
If it takes that long to review it, there is nothing clear and conclusive.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) November 30, 2021
The fact they over-turned it runs opposite to how the review system is meant to work.
That is atrocious.
Russell started cooking and engineered a touchdown drive that went almost the entire length of the field in 2:04. Behind by 2 points, the Seahawks had to run the 2-point conversion, but Wilson never saw CB Kendall Fuller, who followed the QB’s eyes for an apparent game-sealing interception.
But the drama wasn’t over.
With 15 seconds on the clock, Seattle attempted and recovered an onside kick, only to have the huge special teams play nullified by a penalty for an illegal formation. One player on the kicking team was lined up one yard too far to the left.
Seattle recovers the onside kick but it’s called back because of an illegal formation— PFF (@PFF) November 30, 2021
On the re-kick, Seattle tried the exact same play, but this time, Adam Humphries used his sure hands to secure the ball and the win. All that remained was for Taylor Heinicke to kneel down one time.
While the final score shows only a 2-point victory, Washington dominated Seattle in almost every way aside from the final score.
At one point, Washington’s defense forced 5 consecutive 3 & outs against the Seattle offense.
Seattle’s D and Joey’s injury
Seattle, though, didn’t lay down and die. The Seahawks defense stepped up and forced 3 consecutive 3 & outs of their own in the second half, stuffing Washington on 3rd & 2, 3rd & 1, and 3rd & 1. The first two were Antonio Gibson runs to the left; the last one was Jaret Patterson to the right.
Scott Turner definitely needs a new 3rd and short call..— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 30, 2021
Given that the first two of these stops came at Seattle’s 33 & 36 yard lines, the Joey Slye injury was a huge factor, since they each would have offered field goal opportunities to add to the score had he been healthy.
The crazy 2-point score on the blocked extra point
Joey Slye was injured on this play
Without Slye, though, these three stops ultimately resulted in punts, giving Seattle’s offense further opportunities.
Fighting for the win
If you count Washington’s final drive that ended with the overturned call on the Logan Thomas touchdown, Washington had to forgo 3 second-half field goal opportunities that would have made this a much more comfortable win.
Both of Washington’s touchdowns were scored by JD McKissic. He scored his first with less than a minute to go in the first half on a 10-yard catch and run on a pass from Taylor Heinicke. His second was a 10-yard run on the Football Team’s first possession of the second half, meaning that the running back scored on consecutive offensive possessions.
Two points were scored on each of Washington’s conversion attempts. The first two points were scored by Seattle when they blocked Slye’s extra point attempt and ran it back for 2 points with 00:16 left in the first quarter. Washington scored two points following McKissic’s rushing TD on a Gibson run to the left side of the line.
I've never seen a blocked XP returned for a 2-pt, ever— WASHINGTON FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) November 30, 2021
Run, Antonio, Run!
Gibson had success running left all day. He ended the game with 29 carries for 111 yards. His average of 3.8 yards per carry doesn’t look impressive, but Gibson’s running wore down the Seattle defense, who could do little to stop him in the 4th quarter. Handing the ball to Gibson and eating up the clock has become a staple of the Washington game plan in its 3-game win streak since the bye. Gibson has averaged 24 carries and 90 yards per game on the ground in those three games.
That was Antonio Gibson’s first 100 yard rushing game of the season; he now has over 900 total yards (rushing + receiving) and 6 TDs through 12 games— WASHINGTON FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) November 30, 2021
His backfield partner, JD McKissic, who provides the lightning to Gibson’s thunder, had been relatively quiet against Tampa Bay and Carolina, but he made his presence felt on Monday night with 12 touches for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns before he was carted off the field with a neck injury late in the 4th quarter.
Why is Brandon Scherff so valuable even as a RG? Watch him get out and block Adams on the edge to spring McKissic free on this screen for a TD. pic.twitter.com/YVABrqjf8o— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 30, 2021
Taylor Heinicke said J.D. McKissic was walking around in the locker room post-game. Good news after he was carted off.— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) November 30, 2021
D E F E N S E
Defensively, Landon Collins had a good game, leading the team with 5 tackles, including a tackle for loss, but his biggest play of the game was the forced fumble, recovered by Cole Holcomb, that ended a threatening Seahawks drive in the 2nd quarter.
Seattle took the ball away from Washington on an interception with 4:40 left in the first half. On first down, Russell Wilson connected with Tyler Lockett for 39 yards. On the next play, Seahawks running back Alex Collins took a short pass and was racing down the sideline when Safety Landon Collins caught him from behind and punched the ball out of his hands. These were the only two turnovers of the game (though, as mentioned, Kendall Fuller picked off Russell Wilson on Seattle’s 2-point conversion attempt.
"It's Monday Night Football. Anything can happen. Just gotta play balls out." -- #WashingtonFootball Team S Landon Collins, clearly referring to his forced fumble in the second quarter. pic.twitter.com/1g7vQTiU9U— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 30, 2021
Sacks - Kam Curl & Shaka Toney
The Washington defense sacked Wilson twice in the game, with Kamren Curl and rookie DE Shaka Toney each getting credit for one takedown of the Seattle signal caller. Toney also tackled Wilson on a 3rd down scramble early in the 4th quarter to end a Seahawks drive.
Washington used this read blitz on the LG last week with Holcomb and Collins. Both are reading the LG and whichever one he slides to, drops into coverage. Collins bursts through for pressure and Curl comes off other side to clean up pic.twitter.com/pZZ1OO7oBz— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 30, 2021
Seattle’s offensive frustration
Russell Wilson represented most of the offensive output for Seattle for the night. He thew for 233 (net passing) of the team’s 267 total yards. Seattle running backs found only futility on the day, combining for just 18 yards and one lost fumble on 10 carries. Wilson outgained each of them, running for 16 yards himself. The WFT front 7 simply allowed no one any room to run, putting all responsibility for a Seattle win squarely on the shoulders of the team’s struggling quarterback.
Taking what the defense gives you
Surprisingly, Antonio Gibson led the team with 7 receptions, with McKissic right behind him with 5. Among wide receivers, Terry McLaurin and Deandre Carter had 4 catches each, with Terry compiling a team-high 51 yards.
This is the kind of game it was. Washington’s longest pass completion of the day was a 20-yard catch by Terry McLaurin. Taylor Heinicke was patient for the most part, “taking what the defense was giving him”, but he completed passes to 8 different receivers, including 3 to tight end Logan Thomas, 1 to rookie TE John Bates, and 1 to Curtis Samuel.
In keeping with its recent play, Washington had 4 drives of 10 plays or longer (and another 9-play drive), as it played largely mistake-free, clock-eating offense. This clearly took its toll on the Seahawks, while keeping Washington’s defense fresh. The fact that Seattle failed to earn a first down on 7 of their 11 drives (plus another ending in fumble), Washington’s defensive dominance was on display all night. Seattle mounted two scoring drives — one in the first quarter, and one in the final minutes of the game. Otherwise, Seattle faced offensive futility all night long.
The loss drops Seattle to 3-8 and out of any hope of reaching the playoffs. Only the Detroit Lions have a worse record in the NFC.
Washington, meanwhile, put itself in the thick of the playoff race with its 3rd win in three weeks. With the MNF victory, Washington bumped the Minnesota Vikings out of the 7th position in the conference rankings. While the NFC has 4 teams with 5-6 records, Washington sits at the top of those four teams by virtue of the NFL’s tie breaking rules.
That may not last, however. Washington needs to keep winning to maintain their current conference ranking, and they face a tough game this week.
Week 13 at the Las Vegas Raiders
Washington travels to Las Vegas on Sunday to play the Raiders. While the Football Team is traveling on a short week, the Raiders are at home, and enjoying a 10-day break after defeating the Cowboys in Texas on Thanksgiving day. I’m very concerned about the Football Team’s ability to travel on a short week and get the win in Vegas.
Washington will be concerned about at least three key players who did not come out of the Seattle game healthy.
Interior offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer turned his ankle badly and had to leave the game. He was replaced by 4th string, 2nd-year center Keith Ismael, who had played only a handful of snaps prior to Monday night. Ismael acquitted himself well, but he was the only center left standing on the roster on Monday night. With treatment and enough tape, Schweitzer’s ankle might be ready to go by Sunday, and I believe there’s a chance that backup center Tyler Larsen could be healthy for the Raiders game. If not, it’ll be next man up to back up Ismael in Vegas.
The hamstring injury to Joey Slye will, of course, be very concerning. Slye is already Washington’s 3rd placekicker of the season, and he seems to be a ‘good luck charm’ of sorts; Washington is 3-0 with Slye on the roster, and just 2-6 without him. Finding a reliable kicker off the street in Week 13 won’t be easy. The only thing I can say with confidence is that the team is unlikely to bring back Chris Blewitt, the previous kicker. Aside from his unfortunate name, he simply sucked when he was on the field, with a record-setting 3 blocked field goal attempts in two games.
The kicking game, once more, sucks the life out of the team. That's now four blocked kicks this year. First time with Slye.— John Keim (@john_keim) November 30, 2021
Finally, the injury to JD McKissic will be very concerning to coaches and fans. While McKissic gets only a limited number of touches each week, he somehow seems to make the most of them. Much like Chris Thompson, Washington’s previous 3rd down back, McKissic seems to always be able to make something happen, even when it appears nothing is there to be had. He had 553 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns coming into the Seattle game. He now has over 600 yards and 4 TDs in 11 games this season on just 91 touches. When McKissic was carted off the field, I texted a friend of mine, saying that the RB is “irreplaceable” in the Washington offense. It will be a struggle for the Football Team offense to be as productive without him if he needs to miss time.
The NFC East
Looking beyond the Las Vegas game, Washington plays 5 consecutive NFC East games that will make or break their season. Having started 2-6 and still a game under .500 following the MNF win, Washington simply can’t afford many losses between now and the end of the season.
If they can pick up 4 or 5 wins in their final 6 games, however, they should be positioned to earn a wildcard spot, and, depending on how Dallas plays down the stretch, Washington still has hope of repeating as division champions.
Washington has been hot lately, beating the defending Super Bowl champs, knocking Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers out of their mid-season playoff seeding, and, now, crushing whatever hope Russell Wilson and the Seahawks had of saving their season. The final six games will determine what that winning steak amounts to. While a handful of losses will consign this winning streak and the 2021 season to the dustbin, if they can continue to win, this could be a watershed season for Ron Rivera, Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team.
Next year, the burgundy & gold will take the field under a new name and logo. Let’s hope that the Football Team’s final season under its current identify is the best one ever.