There was a mixture of emotions as the Washington Football Team headed into the locker room after taking a 16-6 lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On the one hand, Washington had played better than it had in about a month. The offense was moving the ball well and converting third downs. The defense was giving Tom Brady problems by forcing two interceptions in the Buccaneers first three drives.
On the other hand, Chase Young had to leave the field with a knee injury and was later ruled out for the rest of the game. While strong first halves are great, Washington would need just as impressive of a second half to pull off an upset.
Before Washington left the locker room for the start of the third quarter, Young gave a speech to his defensive teammates, and it helped the unit maintain its high energy for the rest of the afternoon.
"Just keep playing. Just keep playing," Bobby McCain said of Young's message. "He would tell us to just keep playing, no matter what."
It was clear to his teammates that Young, who was named a captain during his rookie season before taking on the moniker again in 2021, wanted to be on the field with his teammates. After all, Young has been a spark plug for his teammates and drawn praise by coaches and veterans alike for his unique ability to lead.
On the field, Young is fiery and normally the one to break down the team huddle in pregame. But at halftime, he was calm as he delivered his speech to his teammates. Either way, he had his teammates' attention.
"Anytime he talks, we listen," Kamren Curl said. "It really inspires you because that's the dude we look to and he went down so we knew we had to step up."
One thing was clear to Curl while listening to Young: despite dealing with his injury, he was still focused on the team.
"A guy like that, you want to pull through for him," Curl said. "You don't want to disappoint him."
There was no disappointment from Washington as it finished the rest of the game. Tampa Bay did try its hand at a comeback with a pair of touchdowns, but Washington's defense managed to keep the Buccaneers contained enough for it to keep its lead intact. Outside of its scoring drives, Tampa Bay could only muster 37 yards, 14 of which came in the final seconds of the game when Washington's 29-19 victory was all but secured.
On Monday, head coach Ron Rivera announced that Young would miss the rest of the season as he recovers from his knee injury, so from a production standpoint, Washington will be without the defensive end's expertise. Young will be going through surgery and rehab for the foreseeable future, but his teammates know that if they're in need of a morale boost, they can still count on Young.