LANDOVER — Playing on “Monday Night Football” often meant tragedy for the Washington Football Team. It meant 2-17, the team’s record at FedEx Field on Monday night. It meant embarrassment and blowouts.
Not this time.
Washington earned a 17-15 victory Monday over the Seattle Seahawks — a performance in which the Burgundy and Gold controlled time of possession and held a lifeless Seahawks offense in check. For the most part.
The Seahawks gave Washington a scare near the end of the game when quarterback Russell Wilson hit wideout Freddie Swain for a 32-yard touchdown with 15 seconds left. However, with Seattle still down two points, cornerback Kendall Fuller picked off Wilson on the two-point conversion attempt.
The win was not only Washington’s third straight, but it moved the team into seventh place in the NFC — meaning the Burgundy and Gold would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
There’s still more football to play, of course, but that doesn’t change that Washington is now in the driver’s seat when it comes to its playoff fate.
On Monday, Wilson was held to just 247 yards — and Seattle had just 267 overall. Washington’s offense ran all over Seattle with 151 rushing yards — a season-high 111 from Antonio Gibson and another 30 from J.D. McKissic. And Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke was effective, throwing for 223 yards while only missing eight passes.
In all, Washington held the ball for 41:40 to Seattle‘s 18:20.
Since arriving to Washington, coach Ron Rivera actually has two wins on Monday — the previous coming last year when Washington upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in an early afternoon game that wasn’t broadcast on “Monday Night Football.” That win changed Washington’s season: It showed the Burgundy and Gold they could compete with the NFL’s best.
It remains to be seen whether beating Seattle has a similar effect for Washington, even if the Seahawks (3-8) are nowhere near the powerhouse of past years. Make no mistake: Washington needed this one.
The stakes were clear for Washington entering the evening: the Burgundy and Gold could earn the NFC’s third wild card spot with a win. The weekend had broken the team’s way as a number of other fringe playoff teams lost. With three teams 5-6 — Minnesota, Atlanta and New Orleans — Washington could have jumped them in the standings because of a superior conference record.
Washington, too, was facing a vulnerable Seattle team. Despite having Wilson and a talented supporting cast, the Seahawks’ offense had stalled in recent weeks — ranking 25th in points and 30th in total yards. The problems continued even as Wilson (finger) returned from a three-game absence. Most notably, Seattle is dead last in time of possession, an area that had fueled Washington’s turnaround over the past few weeks.
At first, Washington’s defense looked like it would be the perfect cure for Seattle’s offensive woes. Wilson found wide receiver Tyler Lockett on multiple defensive breakdowns — including a 55-yard bomb to set up Seattle’s first score, a 6-yard touchdown to tight end Gerald Everett to gain a 7-3 lead.
But that success turned out to be short-lived. It was Washington that controlled the pace — eating the clock with long, long possessions that kept its defense off the field.
Despite this, Washington went into halftime tied at 9. The team managed only a 23-yard field goal on its 15-play, 68-yard opening drive. And, in a bizarre sequence, Washington had an extra-point attempt blocked following a McKissic touchdown — leading Seattle to run it back all the other way for two points.
Still, Washington’s defense controlled the second half — with Seattle going three-and-out on four of its first five drives after halftime. The Seahawks couldn’t get on the same page with Wilson sailing throws and a run game that was highly ineffective. Seattle didn’t gain its first, first down of the half until there were just 12 minutes left in the game.
In that span, Washington’s offense did enough to seize the lead. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner established a rhythm for the unit — mixing in a balance of run and pass plays that effectively moved the chains.
McKissic, facing his former team, scored a second touchdown — a 12-yard run — to give Washington a 17-9 lead in the third. The Burgundy and Gold opted to go for two because its kicker, Joey Slye, suffered a hamstring injury on the extra-point return before halftime.
Washington had the opportunity to extend its lead but had a fourth-quarter touchdown overturned when replay showed that tight end Logan Thomas did not main control of the ball on a fourth-down catch.