Three takeaways from the WFT’s fourth consecutive victory

By Gibson Hirt

For some unknown reason, the Washington Football Team loves to take every game down to the wire. While they’ve won four games in a row, they’ve still taken at least a few years off of fans’ life expectancy in doing so. Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders was no different. For the second straight week, Washington barely eked out a 17–15 win, albeit another way-too-close call at the end of the game that thankfully went Washington’s way. Last week against Seattle, it was an onside kick that sent fans into near delirium,  and this week, it was a last-second hail mary attempt that easily could’ve — and probably should’ve — been flagged for pass interference. None of that matters, though, because Washington emerged victorious and now rides a four-game hot streak heading into the final five game stretch of the season.

The one killer from Sunday’s win, however, was Logan Thomas. With just 10 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, Thomas pulled off the line of scrimmage to block Yannick Ngakoue on a dive play to Antonio Gibson. Ngakoue decided to go low, chipping out Thomas’ knees, resulting in what many consider to be a dirty play. After preliminary testing, it was thought to have been a torn ACL and MCL. Luckily, after the second round of tests, Thomas just escaped a devastating injury and will likely only be out a month or so. 

Here are three takeaways from Washington’s nerve-racking win over the Raiders:

The homegrown hero comes up clutch

For most WFT fans, it feels like Washington hasn’t had a reliable kicker since 1982, when Mark Moseley somehow won MVP in a strike-shortened season. While it’s been just one game, Brian Johnson is already a fan favorite in DC. The rookie grew up right here in Bethesda, where he attended Gonzaga High School and went on to play college football at Virginia Tech. Although he was a Ravens fan as a kid, Johnson said that he felt good repping the WFT heading into this week. In five games with the Saints earlier in the season, Johnson was 5/5 on field goals and 5/8 on extra points. Johnson was signed on Tuesday after Joey Slye was placed on IR with a hamstring injury, making him Washington’s fourth kicker of the 2021 campaign. He made both of his extra point attempts Sunday afternoon, but that wasn’t what got fans excited. In an extremely loud Allegiant Stadium and under immense pressure, the hometown hero stepped up and drilled the game-winning 48-yard field goal. While it remains to be seen what will happen when Slye returns in a couple of weeks, Johnson deserves all the credit in the world for sealing Washington’s Week 13 win.

Deja vú for Taylor Heinicke

He may not be the tallest, strongest or fastest, but Taylor Heinicke seems to have a knack for clutch, late-game situations. For better or worse, he likes to give his fans an array of stress conditions before he embarks on a game-winning drive, and Sunday’s last-second victory over the Raiders was no different. For the first 50 minutes of the game, Heinicke managed the offense to perfection, throwing for just under 200 yards and two touchdowns — one to Thomas and one to Gibson. The deja vu showed up with just seven minutes left in the game, with Washington leading 14–12. On a third and four, Heinicke tried to force a throw to tightly covered Terry McLaurin, and although it may have been slightly deflected, it landed right in the hands of Nate Hobbs. This completely flipped the game, as it gave Vegas the ball back with a chance to drain out the clock and win the game. Washington fans immediately thought back to Week 2, when a costly turnover nearly lost them the game against the Giants. Once again, the defense prevailed, forcing a Raiders field goal and giving Heinicke another shot to win the game. Just like the New York game, Heinicke led the offense downfield and got them in position for a field goal, this time for Brian Johnson. He seized the moment and made the aforementioned game-winner from 48 yards out. Just like Week 2, Heinicke made a mistake, but persevered, leading his team to a last-second victory and continuing the win streak. All quarterbacks throw interceptions, but not all come back the next series and win the game, something Heinicke has shown time after time he is capable of.

Third down efficiency

Throughout the four-game win streak, Washington’s defense has been rock solid, coming up big when the team needs it the most. It was no different on Sunday; the defense constantly bent but never broke. The most impressive part of the team’s performance was on third down. On the afternoon, Washington held Vegas to two of eight on third down, and the Raiders didn’t convert a single third down after the 11:26 mark in the second quarter. The only two times they moved the chains on third down were short-yardage situations of one and two yards. On the other side of the ball, the offense continued their domination of possession time due to third down efficiency. On 13 third downs, the offense was able to convert seven of them. Their domination in this aspect of the game played a major role in the win. They didn’t give Vegas as much time as they would have liked to score, eventually leading to the narrow victory.

Per usual, a WFT win can never come easily, and that was proved again on Sunday. Washington is now 6–6 and holds the first wild card spot in the NFC Playoffs. In Week 14, Washington will take on the Dallas Cowboys in their first of five straight divisional matchups to end the season. Washington controls their own destiny, meaning if they win out, they will secure a playoff spot for the second straight year.