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Notes & Quotes: Washington Tames The Bengals

Quarterback Alex Smith drops back to pass in the Washington Football Team's game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 22, 2020. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Quarterback Alex Smith drops back to pass in the Washington Football Team's game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 22, 2020. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The Washington Football Team (3-7) secured a 20-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at FedExField. With the win, Washington moved into a tie for second place behind the New York Giants in the NFC East standings. It also matched the win total of the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1).

Here are what head coach Ron Rivera and select players had to say after the game:

Head Coach Ron Rivera

-- Rivera began his press conference by sending his thoughts and prayers to quarterback Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick who was carted off the field with a knee injury. "He's a heck of a young man and a heck of a football player. I know he'll be back. Our thoughts and prayers are with him."

-- Rivera believes his team played well enough to win the past three games, so he said it felt good to finally secure a victory Sunday. Rivera knows the game changed without Burrow, who passed for 195 yards in the first half, but Washington was still able to dominate a depleted Bengals' offense, holding it to 25 yards and sacking backup Ryan Finley four times.

-- Rivera said that Chase Young's forced fumble at the goal line was emblematic of the hustle, effort and determination he has shown all season. "I know who we have in terms of the young man he is. I know what he's going to be for us for a long time. He's done a great job. He played hard. He does things the right way, and he's learning."

Rivera knows Young is going to make mistakes, such as when his roughing the passer penalty led to the Lions' game winning field goal last week. But he knows Young will learn from those miscues instead of dwelling on them. "I think probably the only criticism he's really worried with other than ours is probably his mom. I know she's a heck of a fan. I know moms are always tough on their boys."

-- Rivera was pleased with the offense's performance once it took the lead early in the third quarter. It ran the ball effectively, gaining 164 yards on 34 attempts, and quarterback Alex Smith did not make any costly mistakes. That allowed Washington to add a pair of field goals to secure a 20-9 triumph. "That's the big thing that we have to do is understand how to win a football game. You've got the lead, you've got to be methodical, you can't make mistakes, and just grind it out. That's probably the most important thing that happened in the second half was we grinded it out."

QB Alex Smith

-- Smith did not throw for 300 yards for the third straight game -- he did not even eclipse 200 -- but his 17-for-25 passing performance for 166 yards was enough to earn his first win in more than two years.

"It felt really good. Another step, another thing I never thought I'd be doing again. It's one thing to obviously come out and then even to get playing time and a whole other deal playing football as a starter. Felt like we had one last week get away from us, so it was amazing to get to get a win and it was by putting all the work in. That's from doing what we do and so obviously a great, great team win today."

-- The last time Smith started a game at FedExField, he had his throwback uniform cut off him after suffering a devastating leg injury on Nov. 18, 2018. On Sunday, Smith again took the field in the team's throwback uniform for a Week 11 matchup. But this time, he secured his first victory in more than two years.

Smith admitted it was weird seeing these uniforms in the equipment room all week and eerie that his past two home starts have come during alumni weekend the week before Thanksgiving. Above all, he is grateful he was able to take the field in these uniforms again.

"So, fun to be wearing them now obviously grateful for that, to be back out there playing and it was amazing and obviously to get a win."

-- At 3-7, Washington is tied for second place in the NFC East. With six games to play, it has a legitimate shot of making the playoffs. Still, Smith is urging week-by-week progress. Washington has a crucial divisional matchup in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, and if it does not win that, its postseason hopes take a significant hit.

"It's important for us to kind of continue to keep getting better. Collectively, and within that obviously week to week, working and giving everything you can do to try and find a way to win. So, for us, just not getting discouraged by some of these tough losses and continue to grow and move forward. I think that's important for us right now for sure."

DE Chase Young

-- Young was "definitely hurting" for Burrow, his former teammate at Ohio State, because he knows the type of competitor Burrow is. As Burrow was carted off, Young patted him on the head and said, "I love you and get well."

"I was hurting because I know Joe, I wanted to keep playing against Joe. I was hurting for Joe. You just never want to see that happen to anybody."

-- Young was clearly animated Sunday, pumping up the offensive and defensive linemen during a pregame huddle. As it turns out, he was repeating the same phrase over and over. "I told them there are 365 days out of the year. I said, 'These 16 days out of the year, why can't you be a dog?'"

Young believes that energy translated into the game, even if the defense struggled to stop Burrow and the offense in the first half. Once Burrow went down, the unit took over the game. "I just felt like we had a lot more fun out there playing ball just together as a group. I felt like we trusted each other a lot more out there today."

-- Young believes he is developing 10 games into his rookie season but that "you definitely have not seen my best ball yet. I'll tell you that right now."

RB Antonio Gibson

-- After Washington relied more on the pass in the first half, Rivera told the team it would be running more over the final two quarters. Gibson was the main beneficiary with nine carries for 75 yards.

"Just getting started," said Gibson, who finished with 16 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown. "It's a lot I have to learn. There's a lot to the running back position that's new to me. Each week I'm learning. I keep saying that. It's just the beginning."

-- Gibson's two best runs came during Washington's go-ahead touchdown drive early in the third quarter. First he burst around the right end for a 19-yard gain, then picked up another 16 two plays later. Those rushes helped set up Sims' score, which were the last points Washington needed to secure the triumph.

"If you can see it, once I get going, I start to get comfortable each game. Being able to know my reads, where my linemen are going, knowing where my tight end is going, anticipating a play before it happens. It allows me to just run and not worry about too much that's going on."

WR Steven Sims Jr.

-- Sims admitted it's every receiver's dream to get into the end zone, and he did just that Sunday for the first time since last December. His three-yard touchdown catch gave Washington back the lead in the third quarter.

"I just feel like it was a test from God," said Sims, who missed four games with a toe injury. "I felt like he put something in front of me. He wanted to see how I handled adversity through the season. I've been fighting to get back right with a lot of extra on my feet and my body so I can get back right. It's been a long time coming. I'm very excited. I'm very excited to be back competing with the guys."

-- Sims had a lot of good things to say about the man who threw him that pass.

"Alex is a vet guy. Everything about him is professional. It's everything you want in a quarterback. To see him come back from what he's come back from, my journey is nothing. That guy fought for his life. All those things, he's just an inspiration. His whole story is inspiring. I go hard just when he's back there. Regardless of who's back there, I go hard, but it's a different kind of feeling when he's back there.

DE Ryan Kerrigan

-- Ryan Kerrigan has been one of the NFL's most efficient pass-rushers, and he recorded another sack Sunday by bringing Finley midway through the third quarter. His 5.5 sacks are second on the team behind Montez Sweat (6.0).

"That's my mindset when I get out there. I still want to be making plays, and I know I still can make plays. So yeah, whenever I'm out there, that's my focus is trying to be a productive member of the team.

-- Kerrigan is in his 10th NFL season, so he is no stranger to short weeks. He urged his teammates to begin their recovery now and to treat Sunday night as if it were Monday for a normal week. That way, they are prepared for a pivotal Thanksgiving matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday afternoon.

"You're going to wake up Thursday and be like, 'Wow, we're doing this again.' So, the better you can make yourself feel physically, the better chance you're going to have to succeed Thursday."

WR Terry McLaurin

-- Terry McLaurin led Washington in receiving yards once again with five receptions for 84 yards on seven targets. He is 129 yards away from eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark, and has averaged 91.6 yards over the past five games. He has hauled in at least 80 yard in four straight games.

"When I got drafted here last year, I was just happy to be drafted, to be honest with you," McLaurin said. "There was a lot of people who saw me as a special teams guy. I felt like I was more than that, but at the same time, if that was my role coming in to earn my spot on this team, I was going to be the best gunner in the league. When I got that opportunity…to play receiver, I knew that was my opportunity to show that I'm not only a great special teamer, but I could be a great receiver as well."

-- Burrow spent a brief period at Ohio State before transferring to LSU, so McLaurin got to know the Bengals quarterback a little bit over that time. He was one of the first players to be at Burrow's side once he was carted off with a torn ACL, and seeing his friend leave the field with a season-ending injury was hard.

"He's the leader of their team, and one thing I do know about Joe since I've known [him] for a little bit, is he's a resilient guy. He always bounces back from adversity...and he attacks them head on. I'm praying for him."

CB Ronald Darby

-- The Bengals targeted cornerback Ronald Darby early on, but the offseason signee was more than ready. He finished the game with four pass breakups, tying his career high, to go along with six tackles (five solo) and a fumble recovery.

"It just wakes you up," Darby said about the quarterback throwing his way. "I kind of know what kind of day it is going to be. I like to compete, so it made me lock in even more."

-- On his two touchdown-saving plays, Darby said he was not doing anything different than he has all season. Being a corner is about reacting to different concepts and routes, Darby said, and making plays when necessary. 

"Seeing what I've been seeing all year really. I just was playing fast. In life, you're not going to always know everything. …So I was going out there and making a play, staying calm with the deep balls, locating it and just making a play on it."