The Washington Football Team has vaulted from the 2-6 wilderness to leap into the No. 7 playoff seed after winning a third straight game to move to 5-6.
Monday night's 17-15 victory over the cratering Seattle Seahawks displayed Washington's winning formula: Dominate the trenches.
The run game gobbled up 152 total yards, while quarterback Taylor Heinicke played smart, chain-moving football. Running backs Antonio Gibson (36 for 146 scrimmage yards) and J.D. McKissic (12 for 56 and 2 TDs) had more touches (48) than Seattle had offensive plays (45) in the win.
On defense, even without injured ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat, Washington mauled an overmatched Seattle offensive line allowing just 34 rushing yards on 12 Seattle carries and earned two sacks. In addition, Washington forced six three and outs and got a Landon Collins forced fumble. Of Seattle's 267 total yards, 96 came on the final drive.
The combination of a battering-ram offense and smothering defense allowed Washington to control the ball for 41 minutes and 40 seconds.
The three straight victories came after four consecutive losses for Washington, three of which came by double-digits. The turnaround has been swift.
"I still think I hate losing more than I like winning," defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said, via ESPN. "When you win, that's what we're supposed to do. You don't reward a fish for swimming. ... Now we have to look at [ourselves] with a critical eye. We can't get complacent."
Last season, Ron Rivera's club climbed out of a 2-7 hole to claim a postseason spot at 7-9. The veteran coach knows his team still has some digging to do, even as they cling to the final playoff spot.
"We're not out of [the hole] completely," Rivera said. "It's about learning and growing, and it's all part of the process we had to go through to develop as a team. It wasn't going to happen overnight. We're coming together and being the team we envisioned."
The three-game win streak coupled with the Dallas Cowboys' recent stumbles has pulled Washington to within two games of the NFC East lead. The rivals haven't faced off yet this season, making their home-and-home series massive in Weeks 14 and 16. A season sweep for Washington would put them in a position to reclaim the division.