Quarterback Taylor Heinicke,running back Antonio Gibson, linebacker Cole Holcomb and kicker Brian Johnsonhelped lead Washington to a 17-15 win over the Las Vegas Raiders for the team's fourth-straight victory. Here's how they played on Sunday night:
Game Ball No. 1: Taylor Heinicke
There's a certain word that comes up time and again in descriptions of Taylor Heinicke: "gamer."
To elaborate, Heinicke doesn't shrink when the moment gets big; he rises, and it even looks like he relishes it.
Zooming out, the victory over the Raiders was in itself a big moment, as Washington controlled its playoff destiny stepping into Allegiant Stadium. Throughout the contest, when the moment asked for Heinicke to be a gamer, he answered. He had three carries for 10 yards, but they were valuable rushes. He scrambled to avoid sacks. He inspired his offense with his leadership and energy.
Never were those elite qualities more on display tonight than in Washington's final drive of the game. When the pressure was at its highest and Washington trailed by one point with seconds to go, Heinicke completed 4-of-5 passes for 37 yards to set Johnson up for the game-winning field goal. The quarterback finished the game with 23-of-30, with 196 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw an interception with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, but even that doesn't change the fact that Heinicke came through when it mattered most.
Game No. 2: Antonio Gibson
Gibson was one to keep a close eye on coming into the game. In the month of November, the running back was ranked fourth in the league in carries and sixth in yards, and that included a career-best game on Monday night in which he recorded 36 touches.
Sunday's win proved even further that Gibson is hitting his stride and playing his best football when Washington needs it. He started the game off on a tear and had 12 carries for 65 yards (which pushed him past the 2,000 career scrimmage yards marker) in the first alf. Like he's shown in recent weeks, Gibson did an impressive job of identifying holes in the Raiders defense and sticking his feet in to squeeze out yards. After tonight, Gibson has 800 yards on the season.
One of his most important plays of the game, however, came in the open field. In the beginning of the fourth quarter, he collected a pass and dove into the end zone to give Washington the eight-point edge over the Raiders. The touchdown was just his second receiving touchdown of the year. For the second-straight game, he finished this one as the team's leader in touches (23 carries for 88 yards with five receptions for 23 yards).
Game No. 3: Cole Holcomb
Holcomb has been Washington's most consistent and effective tackler. As he had already done in several outings before, Holcomb finished Sunday's game leading the team in tackles (10 with seven solo).
Against the Raiders, the man with the mullet gets a game ball not just for his tackling, but also for his pass coverage. In the beginning of the half, with the Raiders re-charged out of the locker room and looking primed to put points on the board, Holcomb came up big to break up a pass to Foster Moreau and force Las Vegas to punt.
Later in the quarter, Holcomb stopped Moreau once again, but this time the stop was in the end zone. He did a great job to stay with Raiders tight end and swat the ball down to ensure that the home side didn't take the lead.
And, while Holcomb gets the game ball, it has to be said that, collectively, Washington's defense turned out a solid performance tonight. Several of Washington defensive players like *Matt Ioannidis *made keys plays that contributed to the win, If they hadn't, things could have just as easily turned out differently.
Game Ball No. 4: Brian Johnson
What can be said about Washington's kicking situation that hasn't already been said? Four kickers, jaw-dropping misses and incredible makes.
And it has all led us to Johnson – the Bethesda-born kicker who signed for Washington on Tuesday from the Chicago Bears practice squad. It all came down to him with just 37 seconds left. With Washington down by one, Johnson nailed the 48-yard field goal to give Washington the 17-15 lead. Not bad for his first game in the burgundy and gold.