In a season of the improbable, the near-impossible: The Washington Football Team has won the NFC East and is headed to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Washington clinched the division with a 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles to get to 7-9 on the season and edge out New York Giants (6-10).
In a tumultuous first year as Washington head coach, Ron Rivera has seen it all: He battled cancer and rounds of chemotherapy, bench starter Dwayne Haskins after a 1-3 start, see Kyle Allen sustain a gruesome leg injury, see Alex Smith return to football after 17 surgeries and almost two years out, go on a four-game winning streak, loss Smith to a calf injury and return to Haskins as the starter only to cut Haskins after a Week 16 loss and an off-the-field incident, before winning the NFL’s last regular-season game to clinch a playoff birth.
Rivera’s squad will host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super’ Wild Card Round of the playoffs Saturday night at FedEx Field.
This will be Washington's sixth trip to the playoffs since Daniel Snyder bought the franchise in 1999 and will be the fourth home playoff game at FedEx Field.
In a year when Washington played four different quarterbacks, started three of them, winning the division in a game when the opponents pulled an effective starter, Jalen Hurts, to give a backup, Nate Sudfeld, a look after their normal starter, Carson Wentz, was inactive felt normal.
Washington opened the scoring in Week 17 by scoring on their opening drive of the game for the first time of the season.
A 15-play, 91-yard drive was capped with a five-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Terry McLaurin.
On the Eagles’ second drive, Hurts was picked off by Kam Curl. But the Washington offense then entered a long funk and only got a field goal off the turnover.
Washington would see their 10-0 lead get erased with the offense going three-and-out twice and Hurts led Philadelphia on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive and a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive.
The drive of the game for Washington came just before the half as Smith, who was struggling with his mobility all night, found Logan Thomas in the back of the end zone to give Washington a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
In the second half, everything went strange: Eagles head coach Doug Pederson yanked Hurts for Sudfeld and both teams couldn’t move the ball and began a turnover montage.
After going 4-for-4 on 3rd down on their opening drive, Washington went 2-for-11 on 3rd down the rest of the game. They had just 248 net yards on 62 plays for a 4.0 average against the Eagles.
Smith threw for 162 yards on 22 of 32 passing with two touchdowns, two interceptions, and he was sacked three times.
But the result: In a wacky year, Washington Football Team, the team with no name, won the NFL’s worst division and reached the playoffs.
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