As the Washington Football Team entered the locker room trailing 17-7 on Sunday, head coach Ron Rivera was not there to give the team a halftime speech. Rivera, who was diagnosed with cancer last month, was receiving an IV "just to be safe" before coaching the final two quarters against the Philadelphia Eagles. In his absence, quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. stepped up.
Haskins brought up that during last year's season opener, Washington jumped out to a 17-0 advantage before eventually suffering a 32-27 defeat. So, even though Washington spotted its division rivals 17 points this time around, there was reason to believe it could mount a similar comeback.
"Pretty much the moral of the speech was, 'We're home, we're the home team. They're the visitors. There's no reason why we should be feeling like the little bro in a sense,'" Haskins said after the game. "For me, it was find a way to win. They beat us last year at their place, and this is our house and we're killing ourselves. It was nothing that they did that really stopped us, so we just got to keep finding ways to win every game."
Washington responded to its captain's spirited comments by scoring 20 unanswered points in the second half to secure its first win of the Rivera era.
"They were down, 17-0, and they responded and they just kept fighting and stuck to it," Rivera said. "And it just shows what these guys are capable of."
The comeback, which was Washington's largest ever against the Eagles, began moments before halftime when Fabian Moreau intercepted a wobbly pass from Carson Wentz. Washington took over at the Eagles' 45-yard line, and Haskins immediately responded with two completions totaling 32 yards. He then found one of his favorite training camp targets, tight end Logan Thomas, for his first touchdown pass of 2020.
For Haskins, that was the drive that got him and the rest of the offense in rhythm.
"The big guys up front -- Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham -- all those guys are athletic players, but once you get into a play six, seven or eight on a drive, they get tired like everyone else," Haskins said. "That's why we have to figure out ways to extend drives and no go three-and-out…and find ways to keep them on the field. Once we did that, we wore them down."
Washington ran 41 offensive plays in the second half compared to 33 for Philadelphia and added points on four of its seven possessions. The defining drive, which led to the go-ahead touchdown from running back Peyton Barber, spanned 13 plays and bled 6:14 of the clock in the fourth quarter.
On the contrary, Philadelphia's second-half consisted of two punts, two turnovers on downs, a missed field goal, an interception from Jimmy Moreland and a forced fumble by Daron Payne. In total, the Eagles gained just 90 yards after totaling 175 in the first half.
Haskins did not directly contribute to the defense's late-game dominance, but his halftime speech certainly motivated his teammates on that side of the ball. Chase Young said that Haskins' speech "came from the heart," while Moreau said Haskins stepped up and delivered a strong message that resonated with everyone.
Haskins saw the opportunity to rally his teammates and took full advantage. Then he went out and helped deliver the team's first win over the Eagles since 2016.
"It was very encouraging," Moreland said of the speech. "He made us feel like we've got to support him. He's our quarterback of our team. He's the leader of our team. When he stepped up and said that, it made us feel like, 'OK, we've got to get behind him. Now let's make plays.' That's one thing we can get as a defense and as a whole unit."