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16th of November 2018

Opinion



Washington’s timing just right to overcome adversity

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LANDOVER — Now comes the real test for Washington. This upcoming week will challenge players to dig deep and search their souls. They’ll have to look in the mirror, stare themselves in the eye, and prove that their manhood is sufficient to handle what lies ahead.

For most teams, overcoming adversity means conquering troublesome circumstances and bouncing back after heartbreaking defeats.

But in Washington, overcoming adversity means riding out good times and preventing victories from bringing you down.

The Carolina Panthers didn’t know this, but they came to town at the worst possible moment, with the home team reeling from an embarrassing defeat. Cam Newton & Co. might’ve thought Washington would be easy pickings after it was shredded by New Orleans.

Wrong. The Panthers left on the wrong side of 23-17, stopped 16 yards shy of the end zone with seconds left in the game. Washington’s defense returned to form after the Monday Night Football debacle, and the offense did just enough while compensating for three missing starters.

Guessing which team would show up against Carolina was never much of a challenge. Unfortunately, Washington’s pattern suggests that same unit will be AWOL next week.

If only this team handled victory as well as it handles defeat, especially an epic loss on a short week. The quick turnaround left no time to sulk.

“Maybe that helped us get it out of the way,” linebacker Mason Foster said after Washington recorded three takeaways and held the NFL’s top attack to 81 yards on the ground.

On the Panthers’ opening drive, halfback Christian McCaffrey gained a total of 17 yards on his first two carries. He ended the game with 20 yards rushing. Newton threw for 174 of his 275 passing yards in the fourth quarter as Carolina mounted a comeback. But Washington stiffened and forced three consecutive incompletions to seal the victory.

“We started the game with the defense on the field and we finished the game with the defense on the field, and that’s what you want,” cornerback Josh Norman said after capping his adventuresome week with an interception and a forced fumble. “To be able to come here and hold this prolific offense to 17 points? You can’t ask for anything better from a defensive standpoint.”

Much better was asked from everyone on that side, especially Norman. The interception was his first since 2016. He was in the center of a huge communication breakdown that resulted in an easy touchdown for New Orleans and led to his benching as the second half began.

At least one former teammate and many fans suggested he’s all bark and no bite, with talent hardly matching his paycheck.

“This week was the weirdest thing ever,” Norman said. “It’s like I’m playing cornerback versus everybody, not just the opposing team.”

Resounding criticism after the bludgeoning in the Big Easy had a galvanizing effect. The defensive backs huddled up to work out their snafus. Linebacker Zach Brown said his position mates made a concerted effort to communicate better, too.

Washington’s strengths through a quarter of the season appeared to be a stout defense and Adrian Peterson. But both sides of that equation looked a little suspect against New Orleans.

“After a loss like that, guys want to make sure it’s not (on) them,” wideout Paul Richardson said. “We’re all in it, though. If one of us looks good, we all look good.”

They didn’t look bad Sunday. But it seems like ugly losses are the only way to get their attention. The theme in the postgame locker room focused on Washington’s nagging lack of consistency and the team’s need to end it.

“Our biggest challenge will be seeing how we respond after this game,” said Washington left tackle Trent Williams, who did his best Adrian Peterson impression after catching the ball and rushing for 8 yards on a fourth-quarter strip-sack. “We gotta cut this ‘win one, lose one’ streak.”

The timing couldn’t be better as the season’s first division game looms. Unexpectedly atop the NFC East, Washington has a chance to create a little distance against a despised rival. Dallas will be flying high, though, after its best performance of the year, a 40-7 blowout against Jacksonville.

Washington will be feeling good, too. That doesn’t necessarily bode well. Maybe the home team can act like Sunday resulted in another loss.

Victories have represented way too much adversity.

• Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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