The Seahawks (3-7) head to Washington this weekend, looking to get back on track after losing five of their last six, and they're facing a Washington Football Team that, despite a losing record (4-6), has been playing well of late, winning its last two games against Tampa Bay and Carolina. To learn more about this week's opponent, we reached to Washington Football Team staff writer Zach Selby with five questions about the defending NFC East champs.
Things looked a little bleak a couple of weeks ago with Washington dropping to 2-6 after four consecutive losses. What has allowed WFT to bounce back with two impressive wins and get back into the Wild Card picture?
Selby: One of the most obvious reasons why Washington has started to turn things around has been their red zone execution. While the offense did move the ball well against the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos, both of whom have above average defenses, it failed on score any points on six of its combined red zone trips against them. That changed against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. Washington has found the end zone on five of its last 10 trips, and its field goal unit, which seems to be shored up by Joey Slye, has ensured that it can at least finished drives with points on the board.
On a presumably related note, what has Taylor Heinicke shown since taking over the starting role, particularly of late?
Selby: There are two factors that show why Heinicke has been more efficiently as of late. The first is that he's throwing in the correct windows. He threw six interceptions during Washington's losing streak, and most of them were because he made the incorrect read. Since the bye week, he's been much more accurate; his completion rate over the past two weeks (77%) is second only to Mac Jones. The other reason is that he's avoided overthinking his situation. There were times when he was playing like he wasn't trying to lose the starting role, and while those thoughts are always in the back of his mind, they aren't dictating his playing style. Now, he's more focused on leaning into his personality of being a gun-slinger who takes chances at the right opportunity. The results of that change have been abundantly clear.
What about Ron Rivera's leadership/coaching style allowed Washington to rally so dramatically last year, and has the team set up to potentially get rolling again this year after a slow start?
Selby: I think there are few things Ron Rivera did to help Washington avoid collapse during its losing streak. The first is that he didn't make any drastic changes to the roster. Sure, there were some smaller tweaks he made to put players in different positions, but he stuck with Heinicke as his quarterback and didn't make a splash move ahead of the trade deadline. The next is that he's tried to inject some "self-belief" into his roster. Before Washington played the Buccaneers, he put note in each of their lockers that for every Goliath, there's a stone. It galvanized the team, and the players pulled off an upset that effectively turned the season around.
The defensive numbers are impressive over the past four games, what has led to that improvement?
Selby: They players are starting to learn how to work together. There were plenty of changes made, particularly in the secondary, during the offseason. Washington brought in Bobby McCain on a one-year deal; it signed William Jackson III to be a dominant, man-to-man cornerback; Landon Collins, who missed half the season, returned to the lineup; and it drafted Benjamin St-Juste. Based on the big played the secondary allowed regularly, it was clear it needed time to understand how to play alongside each other. The bye week has been helped that chemistry, and now the defense is starting to play more like the unit many expected it to earlier this year.
What are a couple of matchups you're most looking forward to seeing play out on Sunday?
Selby: The one at the top of my mind has been Washington's pass rush against the Seahawks' offensive line. While Seattle has allowed some of the most sacks in the league, Washington's pass rush is still adjusting to life without Chase Young and Montez Sweat, who is expected to be back in the near future. Putting pressure on Wilson, and mobile quarterbacks in general, has been a challenge for Washington, so that battle will likely have a pivotal outcome on the game. Another is Terry McLaurin against Seattle's secondary. Everyone knows McLaurin is going to be targeted, especially since Washington has dealt with multiple injuries at wide receiver and tight end. He still manages to have big games, though, so assuming McLaurin can have success once again, it should create an opportunity for Washington to move downfield effectively.
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Washington Football Team for Week 12 of the 2021 season, the 19th meeting between the two teams. Take a look back at some of their previous matchups.