Coming out of a much-needed bye week, the suddenly-hyped Washington NFL team continued a pattern that’s become all too familiar during these lean years.
Whenever they’re faced with an opportunity to establish some semblance of a winning culture and change attitudes that are deeply embedded into the franchise’s psyche, the team fails to take care of the little things in a game that all good teams do without blinking.
Washington’s 26-24 victory over the woeful San Francisco 49ers is still a win, so that is to be applauded. I guess.
Washington’s offense has shown stretches of invincibility and there have been moments in which quarterback Kirk Cousins has been totally in sync with his plethora of talented receivers. But there are far too many situations in which the offense cannot sustain drives, let alone put up points. Somehow, an early 17-0 lead didn’t seem like enough for Washington, and that’s solely on the offense. Whether finding a steady run game or just being better in the passing game, something needs to change and fast.
This team continues to find ways to shoot itself in the foot, whether it’s a stupid 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct on safety DJ Swearinger—which led directly to a Niners touchdown on the last play of the first half—or Dustin Hopkins missing a “meaningless” extra point with a little more than three minutes remaining. That missed extra point almost became another unthinkable way that Washington has endured defeat. Luckily, the Niners were not able to get into field goal range to make what would have been a game-winning kick.
As a measure of the offense’s progression, the victory was encouraging. Cousins was 25 of 37 for 330 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while adding another on the ground. As good as those numbers look on the surface, the fact that they weren’t better is a concern. Too many times, the offense becomes stagnant and allows opposing teams to stay in ballgames they have no business being in.
Chris Thompson continued to grow into a dynamic talent before our very eyes, accounting for 105 receiving yards and another 33 on the ground.
Washington’s defense also has a bad habit of letting rookie QBs come into FedEx Field and dictate the pace of the game and make plays. Replacing starter Brian Hoyer in the second quarter, third-round pick C.J. Beathard took over and should have led his team to the upset victory. Beathard completed 19 of 35 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown, and Washington never made him uncomfortable, a flaw we have seen with this defense for years. At this point, there is no question the team lacks the resolve required to put an inferior opponent away.
A nail-biter against a winless team is not what fans should expect from Washington. Expectations have changed after these first four games. We witnessed the team do things we haven’t seen in previous years: playing physical, passionate football and making winning plays. Anything less should not be tolerated if things have really changed for the better in Washington.