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This Sunday, WFT wants to show that last Sunday was a true step originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The similarities stick out rather clearly to Terry McLaurin: The fact that the matchup occurred well into the schedule, it was against an established, heavily-favored opponent and his side triumphed because of a united, all-around effort.
The main difference as of now, however, is that Washington's victory last year against the Steelers was a key part of a Burgundy and Gold late-season run, while McLaurin can only presently hope that his team's recent conquest over the Buccaneers can be the same type of galvanizing result.
"They were a very strong defense, undefeated at the time, had a lot of momentum," McLaurin said Wednesday as he reflected on beating Pittsburgh in 2020. "We were able to win that game and go on a roll."
The receiver then reviewed what happened versus Tampa Bay this past Sunday at FedEx Field.
"That was a grind out game," he said. "I think that's easy to say that this is the game that's going to be a turning point, but I don't think it is unless we continue to build off what we did successfully last week."
Therein lies the most interesting storyline of this weekend's Washington-Carolina tilt — well, at least in regards to storylines that don't relate to the deep, almost unbelievable amount of familiarity between the two franchises.
While McLaurin and the other guys he shares a locker room with should be proud of how they outclassed the Bucs in Week 10, they're also by no means in a good position overall. Honestly, they're not even especially close to being in a good position overall.
But if they can duplicate much of what they excelled in against Tampa, get by the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium and move to 4-6, then Washington can begin believing that they're heading toward something worthy.
So, how can McLaurin and the rest of the roster go about making that happen? He explained Wednesday what he liked so much about the organization's last outing, and though it was a lengthy list, he wants his comrades to realize what's possible when they are legitimately sharp.
"We protected the ball well on offense, we set the line of scrimmage on the offensive line, the defense created turnovers, we won the possession battle, we converted on third down and we scored in the red zone," McLaurin said. "I know that's a lot, but when you have those particular ingredients and you put it all together, that's a winning formula. It's hard to get that all in sync each and every week but we know what it looks like against a very capable team."
In his own press conference, Ron Rivera pinpointed a couple of the same areas that McLaurin spoke about.
"I mean, just the whole energy, the whole details, the third down stuff we did, the red zone stuff we did," the coach told the media. "You’d like to carry all that forward."
Now, Cam Newton is the quarterback who'll generate the sound bites leading up to the contest and be at the center of numerous graphics on the broadcast, yet Taylor Heinicke will be awfully important in his own right in determining the outcome of the battle.
So much of what McLaurin and Rivera highlighted — from extending possessions to not committing turnovers to finishing with touchdowns after crossing the 20-yard line — can be tied to Heinicke, after all.
Obviously, every NFL team largely shines or struggles based on how their signal-caller fares, but Washington seems to be very much that way. In their last two wins, he was interception-less and fumble-less. In the four losses that occurred between them, meanwhile, he was guilty of at least one giveaway, and he was responsible for multiple in three of the four defeats.
Heinicke's aware of how much rides on his individual contributions and he thinks he's honed in on what he must do in order to be helpful and not hurtful. He, like the squad as a whole, is intent on proving Week 10 was no fluke or one-off.
"It's playing like myself and not trying to be too perfect, letting things happen naturally," Heinicke said. "Let it rip but also be smart about it. There's a very fine line there. Every week I feel like I'm progressing towards that and feel more comfortable. So, hopefully I can just keep that thing going."
Washington grasps what allowed it to upset the Bucs as well as that it can't get comfortable based on four impressive quarters of action. Next up: converting that understanding into more production.
"I think it's not letting that be your peak," McLaurin said of Washington's objective on Sunday. "I'm really looking forward to the challenge that we have as a group."