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3 keys for Washington to get a win in Denver

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Quarterback Taylor Heinicke prepares to run a play during the Washington Football Team's practice on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.

The Washington Football Team is on the road to Colorado to face the Denver Broncos in Week 8 before heading into its bye week. Here are three keys to Washington securing a win, presented by Van Metre.

1. Taylor Heinicke must play to his personality.

Ron Rivera gave a simple assessment of Taylor Heinicke: when he plays to his personality, meaning he's not overthinking, he can move the ball well. When he plays cautious, that's when the head coach sees the mistakes.

Against the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs, Heinicke was playing like someone he's not. He admitted he had a different mindset, and that resulted in poor play. He threw three interceptions in that span, while his scrambling -- normally a key part of his game -- was limited to 40 yards.

There was a different version of Heinicke playing at Lambeau Field last week. He was more poised, using his legs more and playing with nothing to lose. Washington's offense moved the ball well against what was the league's fifth-ranked defense, out-gaining the Packers by nearly 130 yards. 

Washington still had its problem in the 24-10 loss, namely its four trips to the red zone without a touchdown. The Broncos' defense, which has since claimed the fifth spot in terms of yards allowed, will present another tough task for Washington. But Heinicke has shown that if he doesn't limit himself, the offense can move the ball effectively. The key against the Broncos, who give up just 18 points per game, will be to finish drives.

2. Teddy Bridgewater must face consistent pressure.

Washington's defensive line has steadily improved since being held to zero sacks against the Buffalo Bills. In order for Washington to give itself a chance, it must do what all seven of Denver's other opponents have done: get Teddy Bridgewater on the ground.

Bridgewater, who the Broncos signed in the offseason, has been sacked at least twice in every game this season for a total of 18 times -- tied for sixth-most in the league. The Broncos' offensive line is in the middle of the pack in pass block win rate (15th), but the group's total of 21 sacks allowed is tied for fourth-most in the NFL. 

Meanwhile, Washington has amassed six sacks over the past two weeks, including three against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Jonathan Allen, who leads the team and is second among interior defensive tackles with five sacks, has fueled a group that has more than doubled its sack total in the past month.

Assuming that Allen and the rest of the defensive line can get in Bridgewater's face, it'll be more difficult for the quarterback to find threats like Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.

3. Win the third down battle.

Third downs have not been a strength for the Broncos' offense or Washington's defense. Denver is 27th, converting just 31.8% of third downs. Washington, on the other hand, is last in allowing successful conversion.

Clearly, something has to give. 

The Packers converted 50% of its third downs against Washington, which is still not ideal, but there were some sprinkles of improvement, particularly in the first half. In third-and-long situations, which have been a pain point for Washington this season, the Packers were held to 1-of-6. It doesn't eliminate the fact that Washington struggled in other areas, but putting Green Bay in difficult spots and keeping it there is a positive step.

The next step for Washington will be to continue that against the Broncos. A one-score game quickly turned into a 24-10 loss in the second half for Washington, so it will need to come out with the same energy it had against Green Bay and maintain it for all four quarters.

The Washington Football Team gets to work in preparation for a Week 8 matchup with the Denver Broncos. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)

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