The 2021 season is over, and the Washington Football Team finishes 7-10 after a 22-7 win over the New York Giants. Here's a look at some key takeaways from the finale.
1. Career moments for McLaurin and Gibson.
With six catches for 93 yards, McLaurin finished the season with 1,053 yards, making him the first Washington player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Henry Ellard (1994-95). Gibson had a little more yardage to overcome, but with 146 yards on 21 carries, the running back got the first 1,000-yard season of his career.
It was the fifth time McLaurin, who now has 3,090 yards for his career, has surpassed at least 90 yards this season, and it didn't take long for him to get into quadruple digits for the season. He had two catches on Washington's opening drive, including a 30-yarder that set the offense up at the Giants' 21-yard line. McLaurin led the team with six targets and got four of them.
Gibson had to chip away from the 109 necessary yards. It started to become a reality after a 27-yard scamper in the second quarter, and it took all the way until the fourth quarter for him to become Washington's first 1,000-yard rusher since Adrian Peterson in 2018. He accounted for 57 of Washington's only 72-yard scoring drive, and he finished it with an 18-yard sprint to the end zone.
The Washington Football Team wraps up its 2021 season with a road matchup against the New York Giants. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
2. Slye had another impressive day.
Joey Slye has helped stabilize Washington's kicking situation since he signed with the team in November. In fact, he hasn't missed a field goal since joining the Burgundy & Gold, and he was superb once again, hitting all three of his attempts.
Slye's day started on Washington's opening drive, when he capped off an 11-play, 76-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal. It proved to be an important play for Washington, as both teams barely got any traction for most of the first half. It wasn't until the final drive of the game that Washington regained some momentum, and thanks in part to a 40-yard snag from McLaurin, Slye was put in position to give his team a 6-0 lead.
Slye's 23-yard kick in the fourth quarter pushed him to 10-of-10 in his Washington career and 18-of-20 on the year.
3. Washington smothered the Giants' offense.
Washington had a chance to make life difficult for an offense led by an inexperienced quarterback, and that's exactly what it did.
The Giants' offense struggled as much as it has all season against Washington. It finished with 177 yards -- the third-straight game where they have finished below 200 -- and 6-of-17 on third down. Aside from a turnover on downs to start the game, all of the Giants' drives ended the same way: punts. New York ended the first half with four-straight three-and-outs with eight total yards in that span.
While a touchdown that closed the gap, 12-7, in the fourth quarter, it was far from what the Giants needed to come back. New York went on to put together three scoreless drives, two of which ended in interceptions. And to show just how constipated the Giants offense was throughout the afternoon: the unit averaged just three yards per play on 59 snaps.
4. Bobby McCain extended the lead and sealed the game.
Bobby McCain now has a new career-high.
McCain, who the team signed in the offseason, finished the season with four interceptions, two of which came against the Giants. Not only was it the first multi-interception game of his career, but it was also the first time McCain has taken one back for a touchdown.
The pick-six came in the third quarter, when all the Giants needed was one score to take the lead. Four plays into the drive, though, McCain jumped Jake Fromm's pass to Evan Engram, and all McCain needed to do was run 30-yard unopposed for the score.
Despite the Giants' fourth-quarter score, Washington kept the lead for the entire game and essentially had things locked up by the Giants' last drive. Fromm and New York were looking to at least close the gap with second remaining, but McCain was there to ruin those plans with his second pick as time expired.
5. Time to get to work for 2022.
Washington ended the 2021 season with a win, which certainly eases the tension a bit, but that doesn't change the fact that the team finished with a 7-10 record after a second four-game losing streak eliminated it from playoff contention.
It's not how anyone on the roster wanted to end the year, and with Ron Rivera entering his third season at the helm, there's work to be done.
Washington does have pieces to work with for the future. There are a bevy of young, talented players on defense and plenty of cap space to retain and sign free agents in the offseason. What's more, it will have a top draft pick in April.
Considering how much Rivera has emphasized the importance of this upcoming offseason, those are some quality tools to get the team back to playoff contention in 2022.
"That's the thing and that's gonna be the truth of the matter is that this off season is gonna be very important, very vital to what I think is part of the plan," Rivera said. "It's time I think that we see this team start to take that big step forward."