Win and you’re in. Sounds simple enough, right? What could go wrong …
Because the NFC East is a no good, very bad division and because NFL bylaws mandate that someone must win every division, Washington amazingly found itself with a chance to clinch a playoff spot if they were able to defeat the Carolina Panthers in Week 16.
This game also had significant meaning to head coach Ron Rivera, who spent nearly a decade with the Panthers organization before a loss to Washington last season cost him his job. A trip to the postseason with your new team at the expense of your old one? Seriously, all of the stars were aligning perfectly for the burgundy and gold.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before — the Washington Football Team simply refused to take the easy route and suffered a humbling loss to a pitiful opponent.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins, fresh off the heels of his mediocre return to play one week earlier in a loss to Seattle, celebrated the occasion by breaking the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols when he was caught partying mask-less with strippers during a pandemic. That childish stunt cost him a reported $40,000 and his captaincy with the team, and insured the 2019 first-round draft pick was nice and distracted by the time Washington and Carolina took the field.
With all eyes on him, Haskins then responded with his worst performance as a “pro,” going 14 of 28 for 154 yards with three turnovers before he was mercifully benched for what should absolutely be the final time during his uninspired tenure in Washington. Rivera then turned to a gentleman named Taylor Heinicke to finish out the game, and was rewarded with a captivating showing from the former XFL backup — as Heinicke went 12 of 19 for 137 yards with a 29-yard touchdown pass to J.D. McKissic.
Washington will now travel to Philadelphia for the regular season finale and one final shot at a possible playoff birth.