The Washington Football Team put together a surprise playoff run last year with a head coach going through cancer treatment and a quarterback with one of the most inspirational comeback stories in sports history.
This year, Ron Rivera is cancer-free and Alex Smith has retired, but Washington is in the middle of another late push.
Washington has won the last four games to climb back to 6-6, but the real challenge is about to begin. It has five division games to close out the season, the first of which being the Dallas Cowboys at home.
And Rivera has a message to fans ahead of the Week 14 matchup: "We need y'all."
"We really do," Rivera said. "Look at where our opportunities are. We have five divisional games in a row. We have to take them one at a time. We are playing the divisional leader twice. This is the first one."
Rivera has an idea of what it's like to make a playoff run without fans in the stands, albeit last year was an extreme case. As Washington won five of its last seven games, it had to do so in empty, or at least partially filled stadiums due to COVID-19.
With Washington's next slate of games carrying much more divisional significance and fans back in stadiums, Rivera wants to create as much advantage for his team as possible.
"I could only imagine what it would've been in that first round against Tampa Bay," Rivera said. "I'm not saying we would have won, but it'd been interesting and fun to see what would've happened and how it would've meant something to us having our folks up in the stands cheering us on and how the guys would've reacted."
Washington has already seen the kind of effect a rowdy fanbase can have in a close game. On Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks, the crowd erupted once Kendall Fuller intercepted the Seahawks' two-point conversion to tie the game. With the way the crowd was cheering throughout the fourth quarter, Rivera said it felt like "a packed house."
Rivera knows what it's to deal with a Washington fanbase, both as a player and coach, that is behind its team. That's the kind of energy he wants to have for the rest of the season.
"I was really excited for the fans that were there, and I'd love to see if we can continue to wait and get on a roll and get the other folks that are our Washington Football Team fans to come out," Rivera said.
While a win over the Cowboys in Week 14 would not secure first place in the NFC East, it would send a statement that Washington is gunning for back-to-back division titles for the first time since 1984. And since Washington has shown it knows how to ride off momentum, taking down the first place team and its biggest rival would provide plenty of it.
"We need everybody," Rivera said. "All hands on deck."
You can purchase tickets to Sunday's game, HERE.