The Washington Football Team suffered a blow at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, but the season is far from over.
Washington has four games left against divisional opponents, and while it's easy to focus solely on its 27-20 loss, during which the Cowboys were spotted a 24-0 lead, it is more important to turn the attention towards what's next. That includes a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles, who happen to be right behind Washington in the playoff standings.
However, before Washington prepares to keep its postseason hopes intact, the team must get back on course. So, here are three things Washington can do to bounce back from its most recent defeat.
1. Get back to running the ball more effectively.
Washington has adopted a more run-heavy approach, which has proven to be the correct decision. After all, the philosophy is why the team won four straight games after the bye week, and its 100 yard on the ground against the Cowboys was the fourth consecutive game it hit the century mark.
With that said, it could have been better against a Dallas team that gave up 111 yards per game, and it could have been established sooner.
For most of the first half, Antonio Gibson and the rest of Washington's back ran into a blue and silver wall. By the time Taylor Heinicke took a knee to close out the second quarter, Washington had 34 total yards. Gibson's longest run in that span was five yards.
Some of that can be placed on Washington being down 18-0 in the first quarter. Washington was forced to rely more on the passing game, and the deficit was a hole that ultimately proved impossible for it to dig out of. However, it doesn't change that Washington went three-and-out on three of its first five drives (the other two were turnovers).
There should be opportunities to get right against the Eagles, who give up 109 yards per game. It should be noted, though, that the Eagles haven't given up 100 yards on the ground in about a month.
The Washington Football Team hosted the Dallas Cowboys for Week 14 and suffered a 27-20 loss despite a late comeback. Check out the top shots from the action. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Karlee Sell, and Joseph Noyes/Washington Football Team)
2. Clean up penalties on defense.
The box score will show that Washington's defense performed well against the league's most productive offense, holding the Cowboys to their third-lowest total of the season. What that stat won't show is that Washington gave Dallas several favors by way of costly penalties.
Two of Dallas' first three scoring drives were kept alive by mental errors from Washington. After Heinicke's first quarter interception, Jonathan Allen jumped offside on a third-and-10 at Washington's 12-yard line. The mistake was particularly groan-inducing because Washington had managed to get a stop, which would have led to a more manageable six-point deficit. Instead, Dallas stayed on the field, and on the next play Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a seven-yard score.
The next came when Washington was trailing 18-0 in the second quarter. Prescott's pass to Michael Gallup was to the ground on third-and-6, but William Jackson III was called for pass interference, putting Dallas in field goal range.
The math shows that 11 points came from Washington's miscues. The Eagles aren't nearly as potent on offense at the Cowboys, but they have still shown they can be an annoyance if given the chance. So, Washington must get back to getting opponents off the field rather than keeping them on it.
3. Get started offensively earlier.
Washington received a boost from some late heroics in the second half in the form of two touchdowns, which helped the team nearly pull off a miracle.
As great as it was to watch that unfold, it still wasn't enough to pull out a win. Although Washington started to play more consistently with about nine minutes left, it came when the margin for error was almost nonexistent. Washington needs to get off to stronger starts in the last four games to give itself a chance.
The signs of Washington's struggles were obvious throughout the game. It took six third down attempts before it could get a conversion, and prior to its 90-yard touchdown drive, Washington's longest possession was 17 yards.
Even when Washington started to turn things around, it sputtered for the rest of the afternoon. Its first touchdown was proceeded by a fumble and two more punts. Kyle Allen’s fumble was the final gaffe of the day, and it basically ended any comeback hopes.
After Dallas jumped out to an early lead, Washington's defense held it relatively in check. Had the offense found more of a rhythm at an earlier point in the comeback, perhaps the comeback wouldn't have felt like a desperate attempt to save the game, or even better, might not have been needed.