One month ago, the Washington Football Team was 2-6 heading into the bye week with many outside pundits writing the team off. Now the team is 5-6 with everything, playoffs included, in front of it.
Washington has proven it can hang with Super Bowl hopefuls (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and find ways to win against struggling teams. That's what good teams do, and for the past three games, Washington has performed on par with some of the better teams in the league.
Head coach Ron Rivera and his players will be quick to point out that there's still plenty of work left to do, and even though Washington is no longer in the funk it was in last month, the team is keeping the same determined mindset.
"The thing that you can count on for sure is if you don't win games, then it does not matter," said defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. "All we can focus on is winning the next game."
After all, the underdog mentality is part of why Washington won three straight games in the first place. Prior to the team's game against the Buccaneers, Rivera gave his players the analogy that for every giant, there's a stone. Washington went on to force two turnovers in the Buccaneers' first three drives and dominated Tom Brady's squad, 29-19.
After the game, Rivera chucked a rock in Washington's locker room to symbolize that a giant had fallen.
"I think we're coming together and being the kind of team that we envisioned," Rivera said. "If we can continue to work and play the way we've played, we'd give ourselves a chance. That's all we need is a chance."
The following week's giant wasn't as formidable, but it was a familiar one in the Carolina Panthers, Rivera's former team. Washington handled that task as well, getting back-to-back wins with a 27-21 victory.
Things started to become fun again for Washington after mistakes and missed opportunities fed the October losing streak. Now, mistakes were limited, and Washington began to execute more effectively with the team scoring touchdowns on half of their red zone trips over three games.
"It's not awesome to lose 4-of-5 but it's awesome to be winning now," said safety Landon Collins. "We're just staying humble honestly, keeping our heads down. Staying focused taking each game at a time and making things work from there."
On Monday night, Washington survived the primetime game against the Seattle Seahawks to not only take a 5-6 record, but it also currently has the 7th seed in the playoffs.
Rivera freely admitted that he paid attention to help Washington received from around the league to get the final spot in the playoffs. As he said, that is important now. It's still not as important as one fact: Washington still needs to handle its business.
"Whatever happens, we can't control," Rivera said. "But if we take care of our business, we give ourselves a chance. That's the biggest thing that I remind them of."
The good news is that Washington still has a lot to play for with six games left. After taking on the Las Vegas Raiders, it has five straight division games to close out the season. And aside from the last playoff spot, there's still a shot that Washington can still win the division with some help.
Rivera had been saving the David and Goliath theme for the game against the Buccaneers. It's created a mentality that seems to have struck a chord with the players, and it's fueled them ever since.
With the spotlight on Washington getting brighter by the week, it looks like the team is eager to take down some more giants.
"It's been a very viable thing for us, and the players have handled it very well," Rivera said. "It's something that we have to continue to cultivate and I'm going to use going forward because I think it's something that these guys resonate very well with."