23Nov

Bengals lose a game, so much more in demoralizing defeat to Washington

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington Football Team were the two worst teams in football in 2019, and if the current season ended today, both would be in the bottom five of the NFL again this year. Needless to say, these two beleaguered franchises squaring off in a midseason matchup won’t qualify as must-see television in most markets.

That is, unless you’re excited about seeing Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow and Washington defensive end Chase Young, the top two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, do battle. Throughout the first half, Burrow electrified and entertained — completing 22 of 34 passes for 203 yards with a touchdown — all with Young breathing down his neck in constant pursuit. The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner nearly scrambled for a touchdown on the Bengals’ second drive of the game, only to be stopped short by, you guessed it, his former Ohio State teammate.

Both players lived up to the hype and gave their respective fanbases plenty to cheer for, until Burrow was forced from the game due to a devastating knee injury when Washington defensive end Montez Sweat hit him high at the same time defensive lineman Jonathan Allen was blocked into him low. Without their franchise quarterback, the Bengals looked shellshocked and barely put up a fight the rest of the game — putting up just 25 yards of offense in the final two quarters — as Washington cruised to an easy 20-9 victory.

12Oct

Alex Smith’s return proves happy endings only exist in movies, massage parlors

When Washington quarterback Alex Smith grabbed his helmet and stepped back onto an NFL field for the first time in nearly two years, it was impossible not to get caught up in the moment. 

After all, the 36-year-old grizzled veteran suffered one of the most devastating and gruesome injuries imaginable. His situation was so dire that, at one point, difficult conversations took place about possibly amputating his right leg because of infections, which led to an astounding 17 surgeries. To see what he was up against during his recovery process, Smith actually spent time with service members who had their bodies ravaged by an improvised explosive device.

Forget ever playing again. Collect the paychecks for as long as you can and focus on getting healthy enough to be able to play with your kids. Best case scenario, maybe Smith would transition into a role on the coaching staff or in the front office. That was the narrative that everyone else wrote about Smith. Amazingly, he had other plans.

Just 693 days after being carted off the field, the University of Utah standout improbably resumed his playing career. The fact that he did so for head coach Ron Rivera, who was diagnosed with cancer in August, was a much-needed moment of positivity in an otherwise awful 2020. No one would blame Disney and Hallmark for immediately getting into a bidding war for the rights to tell his story.

And yet, because happy endings only exist in movies and massage parlors, the feel-good moment ended in a violent flash, thanks to Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams. Washington amassed just 108 total yards in a humbling 30-10 defeat and are now just 1-3 on the season.

05Oct

Washington Football Team no match for Lamar Jackson’s Ravens

As the reigning National Football League Most Valuable Player, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, scampered virtually untouched for a 50-yard touchdown during the second quarter, it was painfully apparent the Washington Football Team was on its way to a third-consecutive loss.

With the outcome a forgone conclusion, Baltimore let off the gas, but still managed to cruise to an easy 31-17 victory over Washington at FedEx Field.

Simply put, the Ravens are better in all three phases of the game and a minimal effort by a superior squad was more than enough to secure the win. Their offense toyed with Washington defenders, the defense tallied three sacks and a forced fumble and their special teams added a fake punt … seemingly just for giggles.

After throwing three interceptions against the Cleveland Browns last week, quarterback Dwayne Haskins responded by completing 32 of 45 attempts for career-high 314 yards and a 90.4 passer rating. By no means was the second-year pro perfect, but he avoided turnovers and, for the most part, made better decisions with the ball against a stout Baltimore defense.

Rookie running back Antonio Gibson, who continues to shine as both a ball carrier and pass catcher, finished the game with 128 total yards and his third touchdown in as many games. Receiver Terry McLaurin, who was questionable coming into the game due to an apparent thigh injury, still managed to haul in 10 catches for 118 yards on the day. On the other side of the ball, cornerback Kendall Fuller had two interceptions, picking off both Jackson and backup Robert Griffin III. But these individual efforts weren’t nearly enough to keep Washington in the game as Baltimore jumped ahead early and never looked back.

14Sep

Defense dominates as Washington rallies to stun Eagles

“We play for each other. It’s about us as a team. Eleven guys doing one thing at a time, not one trying to do 11. Do your job to the best of your abilities and we win.”

Head coach Ron Rivera delivered these words to his players as they prepared to take the field for their season opener. We know that thanks to the wonderful Amazon Prime “All or Nothing” series, which followed Rivera’s Carolina Panthers during the 2018 season. While it was a different team during a different year, it shows viewers the mindset Rivera wants to establish with his teams.

Washington clearly hasn’t performed on a level anywhere comparable to the Philadelphia Eagles over the last decade or so, but if all eleven guys are doing their part and playing for each other, the results will be there. Believe in your teammates and believe in the system. Sounds simple, right? But what happens when you find yourself down by three scores before halftime? Will the players stick to the plan? Or will the same selfish and self-destructive tendencies that have doomed this franchise for decades begin to surface?

That’s what was so enjoyable about Sunday’s come-from-behind victory in the season opener — while they started the game looking very much like the same, old NFC East doormat for most of the first half, Washington refused to revert back to their typical lowest common denominator. This isn’t Jay Gruden’s football team. Greg Manusky isn’t walking through those doors to hold back these players. We have no clue how Rivera will be remember once his days in D.C. are over, but this was a wonderfully perfect debut for the 58-year-old.

Eight sacks by seven different players. Franchise records set. First win in a home opener since 2014. And a respectable showing against a franchise that has dominated Washington for far too long. This wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but eleven players clearly did the job to the best of their abilities, and they won.

23Aug

Marlins earn first ‘home’ win of the season at Nats Park

When Sixto Sanchez dreamed of winning his first home game, it’s safe to say this wasn’t how he envisioned it playing out. The highly-touted youngster won his major league debut in an empty ballpark nowhere near Miami to split a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, 5-3.

Thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in 17 Marlins players being sidelined, an early-season matchup between these two teams was called off. A month later, Major League Baseball rescheduled the game as a doubleheader in Washington, with the Marlins labeled the home team during the nightcap.

Home runs by catcher Yan Gomes and outfielder Victor Robles were not enough to keep Washington from falling to 10-14 on the season.

23Aug

Mad Max muzzles Miami Marlins

Pitcher Max Scherzer wasn’t at his best — allowing four fifth-inning runs — but the three-time Cy Young Award winner was good enough to earn his second victory of the season.

Once Scherzer’s day was done, Kyle Finnegan, Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson retired seven straight batters to halt Miami’s potential rally and secure a 5-4 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.

09Aug

Nationals left reeling after Baltimore bullies bullpen

All seemed right in the universe as the Washington Nationals jumped out to an early lead and were cruising to an apparent victory against the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles.

That is, until relievers Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson imploded in horrific fashion during a cover-your-eyes collapse that turned a three-run lead into a 5-3 loss. Homers by Pat Valaika, Pedro Severino and Anthony Santander sparked the Orioles’ comeback and left Doolittle searching for answers.

“I should be able to get through an inning and it just hasn’t come together. I feel terrible. I’m letting the team down. I want to help. I want to be a part of that group,” said Doolittle, who now sports a 18.00 earned run average in four appearances this season. The loss drops the Nationals to 4-7 on this season, which is troublesome because they have yet to play a game away from Nats Park.

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