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Antonio Gibson: Offense can't keep beating itself

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Antonio Gibson carries the ball during the Washington Football Team's game against the New Orleans Saints. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

Antonio Gibson, like the rest of the Washington Football Team, was noticeably frustrated, as he should be after Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints. Losing isn't fun, especially against a team Washington felt like it could beat.

And as Gibson pointed out minutes after the game ended, it doesn't help when the offense makes things easier for its opponents.

"I felt like we beat ourselves," Gibson told analyst DeAngelo Hall. "When we get in the red zone, we've gotta put up points. Our defense gave us plenty of opportunities to put up points and we didn't do that today."

When taking a look at Washington's defense through five games, the unit is moderately better than last year's rendition in some areas. It is 12th in average points per game, and while there's still work to be done with its 20th-ranked yards per game, it's an improvement over the 30th finish it had in 2020. It doesn't change the fact that the unit has gotten in its own way, though, and with a slew of quality opponents on the horizon, it wants to change that.

"Don't beat ourselves," Gibson said. "If they're gonna win, let them do it."

Although the start of Sunday's game was definitive progress from weeks past -- it was the first time this season Washington scored on its opening drive -- it was disappointing that the team was deep in the Saints' territory on its first two drives and came away with two field goals. After Jameis Winston's 72-yard touchdown to Deonte Harris, Washington marched down to New Orleans' 5-yard line and failed to score a touchdown.

Ron Rivera rightly pointed out on Monday that Washington can't take back its missed chances, but had the team been able to execute when it needed to the most, a 7-6 deficit could have easily been a 14-7 lead.

"And as those things happen, those are the things you have to learn to eliminate," Rivera said of mistakes. "And [when] you have the chance, you have to make plays. And unfortunately, we haven't been that consistent doing that. That's why we're 2-3."

Washington managed to overcome its mistakes in both its wins against the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. A fourth-quarter interception in Week 2 with a one-point lead over the Giants nearly cost it the game had it not been for Taylor Heinicke directing an 11-play drive with two minutes left. The offense woke up in the second quarter of Week 4 after spotting Atlanta a 10-0 lead.

The Washington Football Team returned to FedExField for a Week 5 matchup against the New Orleans Saints and was defeated in a 33-22 loss. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)

Gambles and guts were enough to pull the offense out of those situations, but Sunday's game was a reminder of how that shaky formula is not a consistent model for success. Heinicke threw two interceptions against the Saints, one of which was in the red zone on a target to Curtis Samuel. The second pick, which came in the fourth quarter with Washington backed up at its own 2-yard line, was more crippling and resulted in a touchdown that put the Saints up by 11.

Both the throws, Rivera said, were forced decisions, and they spoiled Washington's chances of going above .500.

"It's about guys not trying to do more than they needed to, especially on the offensive side, because those guys have the ability to make plays, make things happen," Rivera said.

Rivera has talked about wanting Heinicke to avoid playing "hero ball," and he thinks that is part of why the quarterback struggled.

"He held the ball a little bit long and tried to force it," Rivera said. "By then, the defender is in position and at that point you need to throw it away or get what you can."

The offense does have some time to correct things, but it must do so quickly. The Kansas City Chiefs are just one of several teams coming up that have dynamic offenses with the ability to easily put up 30 points. Washington might need to do the same in order to win, so it cannot afford to give its opponents anymore gifts.

"We've got the talent," Gibson said. "We've got the skill. We can do it. We just have to show it. Just gotta be more consistent."

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