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5 takeaways to Washington climbing back to .500 with its fourth straight win

Takeaways

The Washington Football Team gets back to .500 on the year after holding for a 17-15 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. Here are five takeaways from Washington's fourth straight win.

1. Washington zooms downfield on the first drive.

Washington has been known for getting off to a slow start in games, but that wasn't the case against the Raiders on the road, and it set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

While Washington generally was hit-or-miss throughout the game -- it finished with 298 yards -- it looked as good as it ever has on the opening drive. It took nine pays for the offense to march down the field, fueled by a 22-yard gash by Antonio Gibson on the second play of the game and a 23-yard grab by John Bates.

With the team set up at the Raiders' 7-yard line, Logan Thomas got Washington on the board with his first touchdown since Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills by way of an athletic one-handed grab. Washington amassed 75 yards over the course of more than five minutes, which gave it a lead that it held for most of the contest.

2. Heinicke delivered when Washington needed it.

Taylor Heinicke wasn't perfect by any means, and he didn't put up a bunch of eye-popping stats, but he did perform when Washington was in need of a big play. He completed 77% of his passes for 196 yards, which is the fourth straight time he's had a completion rate above 70%.

Heinicke was perfect on Washington's first drive, completing all five of his passes. While there were some moments when his passes were a little high -- like his third down pass to Thomas after he evaded pressure -- and made the occasional head-scratching throw -- like his interception -- there's no denying his touchdown passes gave Washington a jolt.

Heinicke has been a big reason why Washington has fought back to .500 on the year, as he's been playing more like the game manager that head coach Ron Rivera envisioned. With the division gauntlet coming up, Washington will need more of the consistent version of the signal-caller to make a run for the playoffs.

3. The defense stepped up.

Outside of the opening drive and the late-game theatrics, Washington had little success, as it punted four straight times to close out the first half. That left the defense to hold its own against one of the best offenses in the league, and that's exactly what it did, as the Raiders, who have the sixth-most productive offense in the league, to 310 yards.

Washington forced the Raiders to punt three straight times before they could get on the board with a 52-yard field goal. During that time, the Raiders only mustered 74 yards on 19 plays.

Once the Raiders started to roll more consistently, Washington still managed to deliver key plays that flustered its opponents. Holcomb had a critical pass breakup that led to the Raiders settling for a field goal rather than a three-point lead.

Then, after the Raiders moved to Washington's 20-yard line with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Jamin Davis sprinted across the field to make a tackle on Peyton Barber for a two-yard gain, which ultimately led to another field goal.

And thanks to some solid coverage on the Hail Mary, the Raiders' last chance of winning the game fell harmlessly to the turf.

The Washington Football Team travelled to Allegiant Stadium to take on the Las Vegas Raiders for a Week 13 matchup hoping to extend its win streak and keep its playoff hopes alive. (Photos by Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)

4. Brian Johnson has guts.

It's hard to imagine a situation with more pressure for Brian Johnson to make his first field goal attempt for the burgundy and gold. It came on the road, against the Raiders and their intense fanbase, no less, with the potential to win the game.

And Johnson came through.

There was no margin for error for Washington. With more than two minutes left and all three timeouts, it moved down to the Raiders' 31-yard line before stalling on fourth down. With Washington using one of its timeouts after an attempt to draw the Raiders offsides, a miss from Johnson on a 48-yarder -- not exactly an easy attempt -- meant Las Vegas could take a knee to close out the game.

But Johnson was perfect on the year heading into the game, and with 37 seconds left, he nailed his ninth straight field goal to give Washington the two-point lead.

5. .500 and controlling its destiny.

Washington was struggling to gain momentum at 2-6 with the season slipping away. Four games later, Washington is back at .500 and catching momentum at the right time.

The team has five games left, and they're all against division opponents, starting with the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys at home. There's even a primetime game in the mix when Washington plays Dallas again two weeks later.

Washington would also be in the playoffs right now if the postseason started today. And if Washington can manage to keep this surge going, it's looking at more than just the opportunity to squeeze into the No. 7 seed. Claiming the division in back-to-back seasons is also on the table.

But before all of that, Dallas, which has one of the most explosive offenses in the league, is the next obstacle for Washington to overcome. Kickoff is at FedExField at 1 p.m.

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