Another week, another Victory Monday.
The Washington Football Team bounced back from a 7-0 early deficit and came away from Bank of America Stadium with a 27-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. Here are five takeaways from the win.
1. Taylor Heinicke balled out.
Taylor Heinicke struggled mightily in Washington's final two games before the bye week. Ever since Washington came back from its break, Heinicke's performances have been mighty.
Heinicke finished the game in Charlotte, North Carolina, completing 16 of his 22 passes for 206 yards and a passer rating of 141.3. And while the running game carried much of the load between the 20-yard lines, Heinicke made sure Washington finished drives in the end zone with three touchdowns.
After Washington's first two drives ended in disaster -- a punt and a fumble -- Washington scored touchdowns on three of its next four drives, including a 10-play, 66-yard drive at the start of the third quarter. Heinicke completed three of four passes in that stretch and capped things off by tossing DeAndre Carter his third receiving score of the season.
And if Heinicke's numbers against the Panthers aren't impressive enough, consider this: over the past two weeks, the quarterback has completed 72% of his passes with four touchdowns to no interceptions.
2. Antonio Gibson bounced back.
As good as Antonio Gibson has generally been so far this season, the second-year running back was part of the reason why the offense sputtered out of the gate.
After dealing with a three-and-out to start the game, Washington marched down all the way to the Panthers' 13-yard line, but Morgan Fox popped the ball out of Gibson's hands on what would have been a sizable gain, giving the Panthers the ball back and keeping the score tied.
Gibson wasn't seen again until the third quarter, and he was quick to make up for his earlier blunder. With the score tied, 14-14, at the start of the second half, Gibson carried the load, supplying 42 of Washington's 66 yards.
The game ended up being Gibson's best performance of the year so far, as he finished with 95 yards on 19 carries. It was actually the most yards Gibson has produced since Nov. 26, 2020, when he rushed for 115 yards on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys.
3. The defense bowed its neck after the first drive.
The first drive of Cam Newton's return to Bank of America Stadium went exactly as the former MVP hoped it would. The Panthers zoomed 75 yards downfield, and Newton hit D.J. Moore for a 10-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
For most of the game, things weren't quite as spectacular, at least for the Panthers' offense.
The next three drives for the Panthers ended the same: punts. The most impressive part was that the defense held Carolina to just 33 yards in that stretch. And while the Panthers did try to correct things with touchdowns in the second and fourth quarters, Washington's defense came through when it mattered most.
The last two drives for Carolina ended with turnovers on downs. Kamren Curl delivered a tackle on Christian McCaffrey that kept the running back just shy of the sticks. And when Carolina had one last chance to take the lead with no timeouts in the fourth quarter, Newton was finally brought down on a three-yard sack by Daron Payne.
4. Washington ran over Carolina.
The Panthers have one of the best secondaries in the league from a statistical standpoint. They came into the game allowing just 173 passing yards per game. Finding success against a group like that is certainly a challenge, but it helps when Washington's running backs are getting things done on the ground.
Washington racked up 190 rushing yards against a Panthers team that was also 13th defending the run, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Gibson was the catalyst for that success, but the rest of Washington's backfield, including Heinicke, got in on the action as well. J.D. McKissic’s 15-yard run in the second quarter led to Washington's first score of the afternoon, and Jaret Patterson kept things going with seven carries for 23 yards.
Heinicke didn't carry the ball much -- six carries for 29 yards -- but his scrambles were valuable. His nine-yard run on a third-and-2 kept Washington on the field in the third quarter. It's clear that the ground game is starting to become Washington's biggest offensive strength.
5. 2-0 since November.
Washington is 2-0 since its bye week, when four-straight losses dropped the team to 2-6. Questions about the direction of the team were not in short supply, as there were plenty of difficult opponents left on the schedule.
But now Washington is 4-6, and even though there is still plenty of work left to be done, it's starting to look more like the team people expected it to be at the start of the year. As Ron Rivera preached multiple times, anything is possible.
But first, Washington will need to focus on its next opponent, which happens to be the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. The Seahawks (currently 3-6) are dealing with their own issues, so the primetime matchup will feature two teams vying to turn their seasons around with plenty of time left for a potential playoff push.