2021 NFL season, Week 12: What we learned from Washington's win over Seahawks on Monday night
- This game was won in the trenches. Washington's focus on its offensive line -- even amid injuries -- paid off Monday night for a Football Team intent on running the ball relentlessly, helping them rack up 152 total rushing yards, with Antonio Gibson (29 carries, 111 yards) serving as the bell cow. J.D. McKissic enjoyed a nice revenge game against his former team, running seven times for 30 yards and a touchdown and catching five passes for 26 yards, which included a reception on a screen for Washington's first touchdown of the night. Washington was unafraid of challenging Seattle up front, repeatedly bashing into the defense with the belief it would produce positive plays. It did, and on one drive in particular -- an 11-play, 73-yard march driven by healthy gains on the ground -- punctuated the difference in ability up front. Washington ran it down Seattle's throat on a key scoring drive and rode the run late, taking marginal gains while bleeding clock, finishing with a dominant win in time of possession and a two-point victory.
- Even without Chase Young and Montez Sweat, Washington's defense still brings the juice. The Football Team only recorded two sacks Monday, but stuffed the run all night and created enough havoc up front on pass rushes to make Russell Wilson frequently uncomfortable, undercutting Seattle's passing attack. A complete lack of a rushing attack -- Wilson finished as the Seahawks' leading rusher with 16 yards on two carries -- put the Seahawks in long down-and-distance situations, leading to a conversion rate of 4 of 12 from the NFL's worst team on third down, and it was statistically worse than that until the final drive. It wasn't until Washington spent a final possession in prevent that Seattle finally found consistent success through the air, and after losing the time of possession battle by a massive margin (41:10 to 18:20), the Seahawks didn't have enough time to take the lead. They could only hope for a touchdown and a game-tying two-point conversion, and Kendall Fuller ruined those dreams with an interception on the conversion attempt. Keep-away worked for Washington, and so did its stifling efforts up front.
- Russell Wilson deserves better, but so do his pass-catchers. First in line for an apology or an explanation is DK Metcalf, who was essentially nonexistent for a half of football and recorded his first reception in the game's final minute (on four total targets). Wilson can pass the buck to his offensive line, which failed to adequately protect him well enough to give him time to find open targets, turning the offense into one of two outcomes: quick passes underneath or deep shots to Tyler Lockett in one-on-one situations, but without advantageous positioning. One early deep completion to Lockett inspired hope, but the Seahawks proved it was unsustainable by the time the game ended. After Wilson spent an offseason publicly requesting more help up front, then missed a month with a finger injury suffered by getting hit while throwing, he's right back where he was a year ago. Even worse, the Seahawks are miles behind where they were last season and could be headed for an offseason of significant change.
- Game reps are helping Taylor Heinicke's growth. Heinicke isn't an elite quarterback by any means, but he's spurred a conversation about his viability as Washington's quarterback beyond 2021 because of how he's improved with the more time he's spent on the field. Heinicke completed 27 of 35 passes for 223 yards, one touchdown and one interception (off a deflection), and largely avoided the colossal mistakes that would have hindered Washington's chances. Instead of pushing the ball downfield in risky fashion, Heinicke was content with taking the open man underneath. With seven minutes left to play, 11 of Heinicke's 20 completions were to running backs. One -- a screen pass to McKissic -- went for a touchdown, and Heinicke repeatedly found open targets underneath Seattle's at-the-sticks zone coverage to keep Washington on or near schedule. A key fourth-down completion might have been his best, when Heinicke sat in the pocket, held two defenders (one being Bobby Wagner) at an underneath target with his eyes, then threw it over both of them to DeAndre Carter for a crucial conversion. Washington is very much in the playoff hunt because of wins like Monday night's, one that wouldn't have happened if Heinicke didn't lean on his team's rushing attack and accept short completions are sometimes more valuable than highlight-reel plays.
- Hats off to Michael Dickson. Seattle is 3-8 and headed nowhere but to the land of frustration, but the Seahawks' punter had an excellent night. Thanks to Seattle's inability to convert on third down and maintain possession, Dickson was tasked with punting eight times and racked up 400 yards, averaging 50 yards per punt and dropping three inside the 20. It made for long fields for Washington (which the Football Team used to its advantage in the time of possession battle) and kept the game within reach, which is precisely a punter's job.
Next Gen stat of the game: Taylor Heinicke completed 23 of 25 passes of fewer than 10-plus air yards, gaining 166 yards and scoring one touchdown.
NFL Research: With his return of a blocked point-after attempt for a two-point conversion, the 279-pound Rasheem Green became the heaviest player to score a defensive two-point conversion since rule changes made the play possible in 2015. Green covered 94 yards of total distance and reached 18.4 miles per hour on the return, per Next Gen Stats.