The 2020 season is now finished for the Washington Football Team. 365 days ago if someone would have asked if next season would this team win the division, very few people would have said yes. And yet here was this team going toe to toe with an all-time great quarterback, and favorite to win the Super Bowl Bucs in a playoff game. In the national spotlight, the team served notice that they were a solid playoff team. Let’s take a look back at the performance from Saturday night.
- Taylor Heinicke- In only his second career NFL start Taylor Heinicke looked like a seasoned vet. At first the Todd Bowles defense tried to blitz him out of the building, Heinicke moved around and hit open receivers. The Bucs defense would over load one side and Heinicke would run out of the pocket the other way. The Bucs tried dropping into zone and Heinicke used his legs to move the offense. No matter what the Bucs did Heinicke countered it. He was let down by some drops by the receiving corps, but Heinicke gave the team a chance. The one interception he threw was a deflected pass. Now I don’t think he should be the starter next season but he should be on this roster. The best QB performance we had all season by far was the one Heinicke put on Saturday night. Pro Football Focus gave him a 92.3 rating, which was the highest Washington QB rating in 14 years.
- Da’Ron Payne- With all the attention given to Chase Young and Montez Sweat it is easy to forget the good season put in by the interior lineman. Da’Ron Payne had a great performance Saturday night. Payne sacked Tom Brady twice, had three QB hits, and five total tackles. Payne certainly did his part in keeping the team in the game.
- Scott Turner’s Offense- How different did Scott Turner’s offense look on Saturday night? The ball was thrown down the field to open receivers. We had not seen that all season from the offense. Second level throws and deep balls were present the entire game. So for all the grief given to Turner, me included, we see that with competent QB play the offense works. Now we need to find the competent QB to run the system.
- Drops- Washington’s offense put 23 points on the board against the Bucs. There probably could have been some more points if Washington’s receivers held on to passes. Taylor Heinicke had some great passes that were dropped by various receivers. Cam Sims dropped Heinicke’s first pass which was a beautiful pass 30 yards down field. Isaiah Wright and Stephen Sims also had easy drops. Needless to say the receiver position must be upgraded on the offseason.
- Jack Del Rio- Coming into the matchup, Tom Brady was 9-1 against defenses coached by Jack Del Rio. This game unfortunately was no different as Brady had a counter for Del Rio almost every time. The defense played way more zone than the team usually plays and it was not cohesive. Players were a step slower thinking through responsibilities and Brady took advantage. Case in point was the touchdown to Antonio Brown the defense was an inverted Cover-2 zone. The Bucs ran a four verticals concept with Brown running an out and up and right to the weakness of the coverage. Del Rio was overthinking and in turn it cost the defense.
- Run Defense- In losses this season the defense has has one big weakness, interior rushing. Tampa Bay was able to set the tone running the ball up the middle with a power running scheme. Tampa as a team ran for 142 yards with Leonard Fournette gaining 93 of those yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. This must be addressed going into next season as teams with solid running games will continue attack the defense this way.
- Chase Young- The stud defensive end had a tough day against the Bucs which he ended up finishing the game with a minor injury. The Bucs were able to handle Young with a mix of the left tackle Donovan Smith and tight end Rod Gronkowski and push him around Brady. Jack Del Rio could have helped him out with some stunts and not lining him up in the same place all game. Young played well against the run however and his night ended up being shortened by an ankle sprain. This was a learning experience for Chase Young and he should grow from this.
- Referees- Referees are human and therefore bound to make mistakes. And sometimes it feels like refs are against a certain team or for a certain player. Saturday calls or non calls all seemed to go against Washington. The McKissic drop that was really a fumble out of bounds, or the non call on a blatant pass interference on Cam Sims that would have been a first down and possible points, or missed holding calls on Brady pass attempts. Did the referees cost Washington the game, no but they didn’t help them either. You just expect better from playoff crews.
- Season is Over- The 2020 season is officially over but the gains by the team have been off the charts. This team is younger, well coached, and building something impressive. With another offseason of building and drafting talent should make this team a consistent contender. Washington has had one year division runs followed by bad seasons, hopefully this team is different. Now on to the offseason.