Washington blows chance to clinch NFC East, benches ineffective Dwayne Haskins

The Washington Football Team had a chance to lock up a division title against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

It blew it.

With Alex Smith sidelined by a calf injury, Dwayne Haskins got the start after a turbulent week of headlines that saw him stripped of his captaincy and fined $40,000. His day on the field didn’t go much better.

Haskins turned the ball over three times in a 20-13 loss that cost Washington a chance to secure the division and left the NFC East title up for grabs heading into regular-season finale. By the fourth quarter, head coach Ron Rivera had seen enough.

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 20: Dwayne Haskins Jr. #7 of the Washington Football Team looks on against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField on December 20, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Dwayne Haskins has likely played his last down for the Washington Football Team. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Haskins benched late

With Carolina leading by 14 early in the fourth quarter, Rivera sent Haskins to the bench in favor of Taylor Heinicke, a 27-year-old journeyman who hadn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2018. He passed for Washington’s first and only touchdown, but failed to mount a miracle rally.

Washington remains in control of NFC East

Washington remains in control of its path to the playoffs with a chance to clinch the division with a Week 17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It will likely have to do so without the aid of Haskins. Whether or not Smith is ready to return next week from a calf strain, Haskins has likely played his last snap in Washington.

The 15th pick of the 2019 draft has struggled since joining the league. Rivera, who wasn’t with the team when Haskins was drafted, has soured on the high-profile prospect with Sunday’s performance and last week’s unmasked party outing likely the last nails in the coffin of his Washington career.

He finished Sunday completing 14 of 28 passes for 154 yards. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and took two sacks. He didn’t find the end zone.

Washington dropped to 6-9 and faces a quarterback quandary next week against the Eagles if Smith can’t play. If it loses, the winner of Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will secure the NFC East title.

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