Updated: Dec 9, 2021
By Adam Aniba
Washington made it 4 wins in a row with Sunday's 17-15 win vs the Las Vegas Raiders. As with most of their wins this season, it came down to the final minutes of regulation to secure a win, moving the Burgundy and Gold to 6-6. With an almost unheard of schedule of a 5-game stretch coming up against Dallas then followed by another our games within the NFC East, Washington controls its own playoff destiny. If the season ended today, Washington would hold one of the final wild-card spots in the NFC.
For the 4th consecutive game, Washington's offense won the time of possession battle with a 33:47 to 26:17 advantage. Although the Raiders came to life late in the game, Taylor Heinicke (196 yards 2 tds 1 int) and the offense shined in the 2 minute drill once again.
The win came with a price though, after it was announced that the low block by a Raiders defender has led to a potential ACL/MCL injury for Logan Thomas, which will send him to IR. Early reports are that his MRI didn't show an ACL tear. WIth 5 games left, even if just a sprain, his season is most definitely over.
Thomas has been a valuable asset over the last 2 games, scoring touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. Thomas has been a productive and cap friendly surprise, but his durability is becoming a concern. For now, the offense will continue to lean on it's playmakers; Terry McLaurin (3 rec 22 yds vs LV) and Antonio Gibson (111 all purpose yards vs LV *Lead NFC 800 yds rushing) continue to be valuable weapons for Heinicke and had a key second half TD receiving side arm. Getting J.D. McKissic back for the Dallas matchup, would add a big boost to the offense and another speedy pass catcher for the Cowboys to account for.
After allowing only 15 points vs Seattle, Washington's defense somehow did it again, winning by the same 17-15 margain. The defense held the Raiders' rushing attack under 100 yards with Derek Carr having the team's longest run of the day (17 yds). Missed tackles plagued the defense at times, but Washington's defensive backs and linebackers had an excellent day, particularly Cole Holcomb (7 tak 2 passes def).
The Raiders clearly targeted rookie MLB Jamin Davis in the second half, challenging him in coverage with Holcomb having one of his best games of the season. Davis looked like an overwhelmed rookie with his head on a swivel and still figuring out coverage concepts, but he made plays when it counted.
The Raiders came into the game with top ranked passing offenses in the league. Carr and the Raiders offense only produced 234 passing yards (310 total yards) with a chunk of his production coming on the last drive and was held to zero passing TDs.
A big reason for Washington's defensive success since the bye week, has been their 3rd down defense. Jack Del Rio's unit only allowed the Raiders to convert 2 of 8 on 3rd downs with only a 5.9 yard per pass average. During the 4-game win streak, Washington has held their opponents to only 12 of 39 3rd down attempts after allowing 65 of 115 during the
2-6 start (56.5% conversion rate).
New kicker Brian Johnson (Gonzaga College HS Bethesda, MD) is Washington's 4th kicker of the year, after Joey Sly went down against Seattle with a hamstring injury. Johnson's 48-yard FG (00:37 remaining) sealed the win after a productive drive by Heinicke.
Johnson kicked 5 seasons for Va Tech, finishing 54 for 71 on FG's (76.1%) and made all 131 extra points attempted. Johnson went undrafted in the '21 draft and was signed by the Chicago Bears on 5/12/21. He was released during the final cuts this past August, but was re-signed to Chicago's PS.
With Chase Young, Montez Sweat and this week Landon Collins out, Jack Del Rio's defense continues to be resilient, if not opportunistic. Washington has only forced 1 turnover in two games, but continues to be one of the most underrated red zone defenses in the NFL. With Kam Curl quickly becoming one of the premiere safeties in the league and Sweat's inevitable return to the lineup, Washington's defense could just be heating up in just in time for a December playoff run.
On offense, Taylor Heinicke continues to defy the odds, while taking snaps from his 4th center of the year vs the Raiders. His ability to continuously escape pressure and slip out of defenders fingertips, give the offense a shot on every play. It's not always pretty with Heinicke, but he continues to show he belongs in the league as a starting quarterback. Lastly, Antonio Gibson has only gotten better as the season has progressed, despite dealing with a shin injury. Getting him the ball in the passing game against Las Vegas should be more of a trend going forward for the former Memphis receiver.
Washington returns to FedEx to face the division leading Cowboys with their playoff destiny in their hands. If Washington can make it 5 wins in a row with win against Dallas on Dec 12th, the New Year could have a whole new level of excitement for fans.