Washington can point to its slow starts as reason for 2-7 record originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Football Team's loss this past Sunday against Detroit can be used as a microcosm for the team's entire 2020 season.
Washington started off slow against Detroit -- something it's done in almost every game this season -- and entered the halftime break down two touchdowns. An early third-quarter score by Detroit extended the Lions' lead to 21 before Washington finally started to turn things around.
Then, for much of the second half, the Burgundy and Gold looked like a completely different team than the squad that played the first 30 minutes of football.
An incredible Alex Smith-led comeback brought Washington all the way back to tie the game at 24 -- and then 27 -- in the fourth quarter, only for the defense to collapse in the final seconds of a Lions victory.
While the loss was a heartbreaking one for Washington, the club wouldn't have needed to come from behind had it just capitalized on opportunities in the first half. Washington had four red-zone possessions in the first half against Detroit, yet entered the mid-game break with just three points to show for it.
“I mean, I couldn’t believe, honestly I was stunned before half that we had three points," Smith said postgame. "I felt like there were nine points there, easily, that we really didn’t walk away with. So it was hard to swallow, that we only had three on the board.
"We were down by so much, it didn’t feel like it was that lopsided," Smith continued. "You look up, and we were dominating the time of possession. And really got a lot of production as far as moving the ball and the chains. So that was discouraging and frustrating, certainly, as we walked in for halftime."
This isn't anything new for Washington. The Football Team has been playing from behind all season. They have a first-half point differential of -76 (148-72). At this point in the season, slow starts from them are to be expected. They've trailed at halftime in all but one game this season, with most being double-digit deficits.
For a team that still hopes to make noise in the NFC East, these slow starts are unacceptable.
With the season over halfway finished, at this point, the slow starts come down to execution. Head coach Ron Rivera knows that.
“It’s one of those things that we didn’t make plays in the first half," Rivera said Sunday. "We got down to the red zone twice and went backwards twice. We get down to the red zone and we missed a kick. At the end of the day, when you get down to the red zone, you have to put points on the board, and we didn’t, and twice we went backwards. So that’s frustrating."
The Lions were a beatable team for Washington, and it's likely the Burgundy and Gold would've left Ford Field victorious had they not dug themselves into a three-possession hole.
Despite the loss, Washington -- somehow -- remains a game and a half out of first place for the division. With the Eagles' daunting upcoming schedule, it's way too early to rule anything out.
But, Washington must take care of its own business first, something Rivera made clear on Monday. Detroit was a winnable game, and so was the Giants at home the week prior. Both resulted in Washington losses.
Up next is a home date with Cincinnati, a club with just two wins. The Bengals have yet to win a road game since Zac Taylor took over as head coach in 2019. They're also starting a rookie quarterback, albeit a good one, but nonetheless a passer with just eight professional games under his belt.
Washington needs to defeat Cincinnati to remain alive in the playoff race, and it can't afford a slow start. But if it does have one, Sunday's game will likely appear as a replica of many of the games this season.