The Washington Football Team had been on a ride for the past five minutes. It snatched victory from the jaws of defeat...and then promptly shot themselves in the foot. With no time left on the clock and having already seen Dustin Hopkins’ kick fly wide right, the players prayed for one last chance to end the night with a win.
Their prayers were answered.
Hopkins drilled the 43-yarder, giving Washington a 30-29 win over the New York Giants -- its first since 2018. It wasn't pretty; Washington allowed nearly 400 yards while its offense converted just 3-of-13 third downs. Many of its positive plays were followed by fatal gaffes. But Ron Rivera saw resilience in his young players, and it was a reminder to them that if they kept fighting long enough, good things would happen.
"It reminded me a lot of last year's team," Rivera said. "We made a lot of mistakes, we missed a lot of opportunities, but we were resilient."
It looked like Washington was getting its last, best shot at pulling out a win with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter. The Giants, thanks in part to 44 yards from Daniel Jones, had just extended its lead, 26-20. Washington, on the other hand, hadn't been in the red zone since the first half.
J.D. McKissic, who only had one touch for eight yards in Week 1, quickly remedied that by blowing past linebacker Tae Crowder down the right sideline. Heinicke hit McKissic in stride at the 48-yard line, and the running back did the rest of the work on a 56-yard gash to the Giants' 19-yard line.
"I knew he was playing tight," McKissic said of Crowder, "and I was waiting for **[Scott Turner**] to call the out and up all night. Finally got the opportunity to run it."
One play later, Heinicke hit Ricky Seals-Jones in the back corner of the end zone to give Washington the 27-26 lead...that lasted about three minutes.
After the defense forced the Giants to punt, Washington got the ball back at its own 8-yard line. The drive started well enough with back-to-back carries from Antonio Gibson. But an ill-advised pass to Terry McLaurin ended up in the hands of James Bradberry at Washington's 25-yard line.
So, 17 seconds after getting off the field, the defense was trotting back out to get another stop. Collins could see the hunger in the eyes of his defensive teammates. The unit had one goal: limit the Giants to a field goal, get off the field and give the ball back to the offense. That's exactly what happened, too, and Jonathan Allen credits it to mental toughness.
"In the time and in that moment, you've got to make the plays to win the game down the stretch," Allen said, "and as a defense, that's what we did."
Holding Jones and the Giants to a field goal was great, but it still put the team back up by two points. The ball was placed again in the hands of Heinicke, who Rivera said was "pissed" after throwing his interception. The confidence he got from his teammates never wavered, though.
"He's always ready for his moment," McLaurin said of Heinicke, "and I love guys who are always ready for their moment, always prepared."
With two minutes left and a timeout to spare, Heinicke settled into Washington's hurry up offense. It was a situation he was uniquely prepared for since he ran an up-tempo offense at Old Dominion, and he methodically completed six of his eight pass attempts and moved Washington to New York's 30-yard line.
"Defense is on their heels," Heinicke said. "They get kind of tired. They start playing...base defenses, and we've been practicing for that every day."
Eleven plays later -- the drive included a third- and fourth-down conversion -- Hopkins was lining up for the game-winning kick. He had been in the situation before; getting a second shot after a defender was lined up in the neutral zone was new to him. The penalty made the attempt a 43-yarder, and ironically, he liked the way he hit the first kick better.
Still, he can't argue with seeing it sail through the uprights.
"Thank you, Lord. How about that?" Hopkins said. "I've had it to where you feel like you've hit a really good ball and it hits the post or something and you feel like you're that close. But to have something like this where you get the second chance? I've never."
The crowd erupted as the officials signaled the kick was good, and Washington walked aways with a 1-0 record in the NFC East. There will be plenty to correct in the days to come. That's not where the focus is now, though. After five minutes of eternity, Washington survived. It found a way. It won.
For now, that's all that matters.
"I would say we did it together," Chase Young said. "We made a few mistakes. But at the end of the day, we just found a way to get it done."