The Washington Football Team hosted the Kansas City Chiefs for Week 6, and despite a first half surge, it came aways with a 31-13 loss. Here are five takeaways from the afternoon.
1. Washington's defense was vastly improved in the first half.
The reputation of Kansas City's offense was well-known before Patrick Mahomes came to FedExField. It was also universally agreed upon that Washington's defense would need to put together an outstanding game to have a chance of getting an upset.
It wasn't perfect by any means, but the unit played much better in the first half.
Things certainly didn't start off well. Kansas City marched downfield on a 10-play, 95-yard drive fueled by gains of 20-plus yards by Travis Kelce and Jody Forston to take a 7-0 lead. But after that, the defense settled in and forced three turnovers on the Chiefs' next five drives.
Mahomes threw two picks in the first half, and they were results of Washington refusing to give up on plays. Kendall Fuller got his first interception of the year after Mahomes' pass to Tyreek Hill bounced out of the receivers grasp. Then, with Kansas City trying to put up points before halftime, Mahomes threw up a pass to avoid a rush, and this time it was Bobby McCain who made the grab.
It was certainly the best half Washington's defense has played thus far. Kansas City, which came into the game averaging 30 points per game, only had 10 points to show for their efforts after two quarters.
2. The pass-rush couldn't contain Mahomes in the second half.
The defense played closer to the standard it holds itself to in the first half, and that is largely because its pass rush was causing problems for Mahomes. It even played a role in Mahomes' second interception of the day.
But a player like Mahomes can't be contained forever, and his ability to create almost impossible plays out of thin air was part of why Washington couldn't keep up with the Chiefs in the second half.
On the Chiefs' final scoring drive of the game, Mahomes spun and dodged multiple defenders as Kansas City's offense marched 96 yards downfield. The Chiefs faced five third downs on the drive, and Mahomes bought enough time on all of them for the Chiefs to keep the sticks moving.
When asked after the game whether Washington was losing contain on Mahomes or the quarterback was making spectacular plays, Ron Rivera said it was a little of both.
"A couple times he stepped through the rush, and then he made a couple plays," Rivera said. "He pretty much played the type of game people are used to seeing him play."
3. The offense did enough to take a first half lead...
Like the defense, Washington's offense had some issues in the first half. Three of its first five drives ended in either a punt or a turnover, and while it did have enough movement to get field goals of 50 and 43 yards from Dustin Hopkins, it couldn't get into the red zone.
With that said, after the defense forced a fumble because of an exceptional effort by Cole Holcomb, it got enough momentum to take a lead with just over a minute left in the first half.
In what was the most successful drive of the afternoon for Washington, Taylor Heinicke directed the unit on an eight-play, 67-yard drive. After a seven-yard run by J.D. McKissic put Washington at the Chiefs' 39-yard line, Ricky Seals-Jones got behind the secondary on a blown coverage and ran in for the score to give Washington a 13-10 advantage.
Unfortunately, Washington was not able to keep that spark going in the second half, as it went scoreless for the rest of the game. It finished the afternoon with 276 yards, most of which came in the first two quarters.
4. ...but it struggled in the second half.
Washington was sitting in a good position against one of the best teams of the last five years clinging to a three-point lead. However, as the second half progressed, that excitement slowly began to dwindle while the Chiefs found their footing.
On the Chiefs' first possession of the third quarter, after Hopkins' 42-yard attempt went wide left, Mahomes and his offense put together a 10-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Hill getting a two-yard touchdown to put the Chiefs back up, 17-13.
From that point on, the Chiefs moved down the field with ease. They scored touchdowns on their next two drives, encompassing 141 yards on 23 plays, while Washington could only muster 31 yards on 10 plays.
Washington's lack of production can also be credited to Kansas City having a stranglehold on the time of possession. With the score 24-13 in the fourth quarter, Kansas City bled the clock for more than seven minutes before scoring on a 24-yard pass to Demarcus Robinson.
It served as a lesson that in order to beat top tier teams like Kansas City, it needs to put together a complete performance.
5. "We have to handle adversity."
Washington gave itself a chance to win in the first half, despite being viewed as a home underdog heading into the game. Even in the opening minutes of the third quarter, it looked like Washington would continue that success after forcing a punt and getting into field goal range.
But then Hopkins missed a kick that would have put Washington up by six, and that was followed by one mistake after the other. A three-point lead quickly turned into a double-digit loss, and with another quality team in the Green Bay Packers coming up next, Rivera's message to his team is simple: "We have to handle adversity."
"We've got to play two halves of football," Rivera said. "We've got to be able to handle the mistakes, correct the mistakes and just keep going forward."
It's advice Washington will need to take to heart over the next month. After traveling to Green Bay in Week 7, the team has to go to Denver, followed by hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9. It will need to put together complete games against all three of those opponents.