The Washington Football Team has pulled off upset victories in three straight games after their 17-15 win against Seattle for Monday Night Football on the last Monday in November. After starting the season losing six of their first eight games, head coach Ron Rivera has this team in contention once again to win the NFC East against a faltering Dallas Cowboys team that has lost three of their last four games. At 5-6, the Football Team is two games behind the Cowboys in the division standings yet they still have both their games with their NFC East rivals on deck in December.
Washington won the NFC East last season despite starting the year with a 1-5 record. The foundation for success for Rivera this season has been a renewed commitment to run the football coming off their bye week.
The Football Team’s first game after the two weeks off and self-audit of their own tendencies when they hosted Tampa Bay. They shocked the defending Super Bowl champions three weeks ago with a 29-19 victory. The Football Team held Tom Brady and the Buccaneers' offense to just 273 yards. Washington was able to contain Brady by being on offense for over 39 minutes in that game. They ran the ball 34 times for 94 yards.
Washington then upset Carolina on the road two weeks ago with a 27-21 win as a field goal underdog. They held the Panthers to only 297 yards with them being on offense for just over 24 minutes in that game. The Football Team’s offense was on the field for 35:53 minutes. They ran the ball 40 times for 190 yards.
On Monday, the Football Team ran the ball 43 times for 152 yards. They controlled the clock on offense for 41:40 minutes after keeping Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense on the field for less than ten minutes in the first half. Seattle only gained 267 yards in the game.
The success in the Washington ground game has come from the spectacular play of Antonio Gibson. The second-year running back has rushed the ball 72 times in the last three games for 270 yards. He has 81 touches in those three games when including catching the ball out of the backfield. He ran the ball 29 times for 111 yards against the Seahawks.
Running the football to win the time of possession battle has helped to revitalize the Football Team’s defense that struggled early in the season. They allowed 424, 391, and 481 yards in their first three games of the year. The 432 yards per game those first three opponents averaged far eclipsed their 305 yards per game defensive average last year, the second-best mark in the league. Washington has held their last three opponents to 55 combined points, similar to the defensive run they went on last season when they held their last seven opponents to 20 points or less with a 15.0 points per game opponent average from week 11 to the end of the regular season. Their opponents during their winning streak have averaged only 279 yards per game with none gaining more than 297 yards. Being on offense for about 16 more minutes per game keeps the defense fresh while frustrating quarterbacks like Brady and Wilson.
With this commitment to run the football and control the time of possession, Rivera may be poised to lead the Football Team to a second-straight playoff run despite a slow start to the season.
Good luck - TDG.