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If you know the narrative of David vs. Goliath, then you probably understand why coach Ron Rivera is using that scenario to motivate his surging Washington Football Team. After a disheartening start to the season, the team has turned it around and is playing up to expectations.
“For every Goliath, there was a David. For every giant, there was a stone. And we’ve stuck to that. It’s a little bit of a mantra, and that’s okay,” stated Rivera. “As long as they get it and understand it, it’s been a very viable thing for us, and the players have handled it very well. It’s something we have to continue to cultivate and I’m going to use it going forward because I think it’s something that these guys resonate very well with.”
In the story, David was an underdog and that makes sense for a team that was 2-6 before the bye week. Since returning, they have methodically dismantled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. Then they doubled down after breaking their seven-game losing streak on Monday Night Football with a 17-15 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
The win moves Washington to 5-6 and they are now a seventh seed in the NFC playoff race.
This seemed like an unlikely possibility just a few weeks ago, especially with major injuries to their top defensive players Montez Sweat and Chase Young.
On the other end, the offense has been playing some of their best football. On Monday, quarterback Taylor Heinicke finally had wide receiver Curtis Samuel on the field and Logan Thomas returned from injury.
For Heinicke, defeating some of the top players in the league as of late has been “pretty cool” but he’s not getting too far ahead of himself.
“We have a lot more work to do and there is a lot more that we want to accomplish,” said Heinicke.
In addition to extra weapons on the field, offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s play calling has been noticeably efficient and the team is having more success on the ground.
“It’s not a change of philosophy. We felt pretty good about our ability to run the ball in the last two games,” stated Turner. “And then also, we were successful running the ball. When you’re doing that and you’re playing downhill, you take the pressure off the quarterback. You take the pressure off the offensive line to have to pass protect against good pass rushers. It helps.”
“You’re always going to be balanced. I think when the run is working, it makes you really feel like you can call any play on the sheet,” he continued.
Washington’s efficiency has also been seen on defense. This unit was supposed to be considered a force to be reckoned with but they have been far from it. Now they are living up to their identity.
“We didn’t fracture when it was a very adverse time earlier in the year,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “I thought we continued to stay together, continued to work hard and that’s what gives you a chance. I’ve been doing this a long time. Teams that are able to kind of withstand that and stay together and keep working, have a chance for better things later in the year.”
If Washington continues to show resilience in the final stretch of the season, they have a solid chance of moving from David to the Goliath of the NFC East, and possibly taking that a step further into the playoffs.
“What we talked about really is positioning [in the playoffs],” Rivera explained. “We’ve got one more game and then we’ve got the five-game-round-robin. We’re going to have the Raiders and get ready for them. And then we’ll worry about the next five games.”