Being a fan of Washington’s NFL team sure is difficult at times.
After their domination of the Oakland Raiders a week earlier, Washington’s Monday Night Football showdown with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium suddenly became the marquee matchup of Week Four.
This was the game that could vault Washington into the ranks of one the best teams in the sport, and showcase an improved defense and an offense that is seemingly getting better and more explosive each game.
Alas, the better team won, as the Chiefs were able to mount a final drive and kick the clinching field goal en route to a 29-20 win.
Early on, Kirk Cousins led Washington to a 10-0 lead, but things started to unravel for them with a litany of foolish penalties on both sides of the ball. It is increasingly frustrating to watch a team play so well at times, only to repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot with dumb penalties. Washington penalties extended drives for Kansas City numerous times, and a slew of injuries—especially on the defensive side of the ball—seemed to take the collective wind out of the visiting team’s sails.
Despite the Chiefs dominating time-of-possession from the second quarter onward, Washington still had a chance to win the game. Late in the fourth quarter and trailing 20-17, Cousins led his team down the field with some uncharacteristically great, heady runs to extend the drive. With less than a minute remaining, it looked as if the unthinkable was about to occur—Cousins’ first Monday Night win in four tries—as the quarterback lofted a perfect 22-yard pass to receiver Josh Doctson in the end zone. But Doctson couldn’t quite hang onto the pass as he struck the turf in the back of the end zone, and Washington was forced to settle for a Dustin Hopkins field goal to tie the game at 20-20.
Games are never won or lost on just one play, but the sporting life comes down to moments. Doctson had a chance to create a moment for his team, a moment in which they might be seen as more than just a middling franchise and truly be respected as a team on the rise.
But because he didn’t hang on to that touchdown pass, and because the Washington defense could not hold back the surging Chiefs on their next possession, the team is 2-2 heading into a much-needed bye week.
Washington deserved to win this one, and as bad as Doctson must feel right now, the fans are feeling this one, too. A team that has been a virtual laughingstock on national TV had a chance to claim back-to-back wins against Super Bowl contenders. Instead, their effort was wasted.
Now comes the hard part. Washington has shown that it can compete against the very best—but will they continue to do exactly that? Losing a road game isn’t the worst thing that could happen to an NFL team. The question is whether this team will continue to make mental errors which cost them key wins, or if they will start to make winning plays on a regular basis and earning respect from media and fans alike.
We shall see whether this is “the same ol’ Washington,” or not.