The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
Prior to the Washington Football Team's Thanksgiving game against the Dallas Cowboys, offensive coordinator Scott Turner told the team he wasn't going to hold anything back, and that included running a play from a 26-year-old movie.
With Washington trailing, 10-7, in the second quarter, Alex Smith lined up a few back behind center Chase Roullier. With the offensive linemen standing up, it may have looked like nothing was happening, but Roullier had actually snapped the ball, which Smith then slipped between J.D. McKissic's legs. Before most of the Cowboys' defense realized it, McKissic was running to the left and got a first down on a six-yard gain.
The play, head coach Ron Rivera revealed after Washington's 41-16 win over the Cowboys, was called the "Bumblerooski" and inspired by the 1994 movie "Little Giants." Those are the kinds of wrinkle Washington is adding to its offense, and it's helping the unit stay unpredictable.
"Scott's got some innovation," Rivera said. "When you watch some of the things that we do, some of the things that we work on in practice, you can see the potential for big plays. Using the guys and getting them opportunities to use their skills, that's huge."
The "Bumblerooski" wasn't the first time Washington has delved into its bag of tricks this season. Against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 22, tight end Logan Thomas lined up under center and converted a 3rd-and-2 at the Bengals' 12-yard line. Washington scored and took a 7-0 lead two plays later.
Four days later, Thomas was using his quarterback experience once again, only this time as a passer. Thomas took an end around handoff, dropped back and fired a 28-yard pass to Terry McLaurin, who made the catch at Dallas' 36-yard line. Antonio Gibson ended the drive with a five-yard rushing touchdown.
Rivera said the team spends some time practicing those plays during the week -- it practiced the "Bumblerooski" twice before running it against the Cowboys -- just in case it ever wants to use them in games. There aren't any analytics that tell coaches when they should run a trick play; those decisions are made entirely on gut feelings.
"You can look at situations and say: 'Man, if I get that situation now is the time,'" Rivera said Friday. "In certain situations what does tell you is your gut says: 'OK, we've got to get some momentum. We've got to do something that gets the momentum.'"
That's what Rivera thinks the Cowboys were trying to do when they ran a pair of fake punts. The difference is that Washington snuffed out those attempts at flipping the momentum because, just as the offense practices running trick plays, the defense and special teams units also focus on learning how to defend against them.
"When your coordinators are in tune to what could potentially happen and you practice those things, those are big," Rivera said. "Kudos to the coaches for working on them all week, but also to the players for getting it and understanding those situations and circumstances could arise."
For what it's worth, Rivera's guts have not led him astray when it comes to trick plays. Washington has scored 17 points when it has run trick plays during drives, and all three of the aforementioned trick plays have contributed to the team either trying the game or taking a lead.
Washington is in the midst of a battle for the NFC East, and while it is currently in second place, there are still five games left for the team to improve its standing in the division. It's willing to do whatever it takes to finish the year with a home playoff game, even if that means taking the unconventional path from time to time.
"I thought it was a ton of fun and love that it worked," Smith said of the "Bumblerooski" play. "My job was obviously just to kind of hand it off and decoy. Like I said, that stuff is fun. Even at this level, guys have fun with that kind of stuff. It's even more fun when it works."
-- Judging Pittsburgh's long-term success: The Steelers have been one of the best franchises in the NFL for decades now. They are tied with the New England Patriots with the most Super Bowl wins (six) and are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the second-most postseason wins (35). What's more impressive is that has all been done with just three different head coaches since 1969. That consistency, Rivera surmises, has a lot to do with the team's success.
"It's been the same family owning it. It's been the same general manager for the last, I want to say, 20 years probably. Now, [head coach] Mike Tomlin is one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the league. I think consistency is probably the most important thing. They have a culture, and they stuck to that culture since they've been with [former head coach] Chuck Noll to Mike now. When you do that, you give yourself the same chance to be successful because the formula for them now is working."
-- Grading Washington's offseason acquisitions: Washington tried its hand at some flashy free agents this offseason, but it stuck with signing players on one-year "prove-it" deals for the most part. That doesn't mean the team didn't have faith in the players it signed, though. Rivera said he and the coaches felt like the free agents they brought in could be primed for big seasons. So far, that has turned out to be true, as players like McKissic and Thomas are already having career years.
"You look at these guys and think these are the types of guys that you want. You look at our offensive line and, I talk about position flex and flexibility, we have guys that have played guard and shown it. They've played tackle, they've played the right side, they've played the left side. Those are the kinds of things that help you as you put your team together. Now, those guys may not be your starters, but they may be top-flight backups that are just as valuable to what you're trying to do."
-- Washington still searching for its identity: Rivera knows it's commonplace for people to ask what a team's identity. It seems like Washington philosophy is to get the ball to its offensive playmakers and play tough, hard-nosed defense, but Rivera said its still searching for its identity. The team is young, so it's still learning how to win, but Rivera did say his team is starting to become more resilient.
"We have guys that can handle a bad first half and then bounce back. We've shown that. We've done that. I do like that in our guys, but I'd much rather not have to take a few punches before we realize: 'Let's go. Let's start fighting.' I like to start from the beginning. But it does show the toughness and the resilience that our guys do have."
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