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WFT Daily: 'Tis The Season For Rivera's Teams To Shine

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Head coach Ron Rivera oversees a Washington Football Team practice. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.

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Head coach Ron Rivera has spoken a lot about how his teams tend to improve as the season goes on, and there are plenty of statistics to support that.

Rivera has a career record of 34-38-1 in September and October, but that record jumps to 46-36 the rest of the regular season. And when only counting December and January, his teams have fared even better. Rivera's Carolina Panthers went 25-14 during those months from 2011-18, which was the fifth-best winning percentage (64.1%) in the NFL during that time, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Rivera's first season with the Washington Football Team has unfolded in a similar manner. After going 2-5 in September and October, Washington went 2-2 in November and enters the final stretch on a two-game winning streak. Another strong finish from Rivera could give the burgundy and gold its first NFC East title since 2015.

"Growth," Rivera said when asked what attributes to his late-season success. "Our players get more and more experience and learn more and more. Each season is different. Each season has its own personality. We'll see how this happens. I mean it, this is going to be a heck of a stretch when you look at who we have left in terms of Pittsburgh and Seattle and San Francisco and Carolina, who's playing better and better football. San Francisco is getting healthier. These are going to be five tough games."

If Rivera's winning percentage during December and January holds up, Washington will win three of its final five games and likely finish atop the division with a 7-9 mark.

But as Rivera alluded, this will be perhaps the toughest stretch of his team's season. The Steelers are only the 13th team in the Super Bowl era to start 11-0, while the 49ers (5-6) have shown they can beat anyone, even with an injury-ridden roster. Washington will go to Pittsburgh for a Monday evening showdown and then travel across the country to play San Francisco in Arizona on a short week.

Washington will return home for its first game in nearly a month Dec. 20, but it'll do so against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks (8-3), one of the best teams in the NFC.

Rivera said those three opponents will "certainly be measuring sticks" for a Washington team that has played markedly better since the beginning of November. Over the past month, Washington ranks in the top 12 in almost every major offensive category, according to STATS PASS. The defense, meanwhile, has been statistically stout all season.

"I think momentum is a very real thing," offensive coordinator Scott Turner said Wednesday. "It's just confidence, guys building confidence and feeling good about themselves and continuing to work and grow. I made the point to you guys for a long time that we want to keep just getting better every week and play our best football in December and January. That's what we're working and striving to do."

During a virtual meet and greet with military families in May, Rivera was asked about his expectations entering the 2020 campaign. First and foremost, Rivera wanted to see his team grow and improve while playing hard-nosed, smart and physical football. He also said he "would love" to see the team get "on a roll" in December, just like his Panthers teams had done in the past.

Well, it's the beginning of December, and Washington seems to be playing its best football of the season. And if history is any indication, the best is still yet to come.

QUICK HITS

-- Montez Sweat explains pick-six: Montez Sweat's acrobatic pick-six put the finishing touches on a Thanksgiving rout of the Dallas Cowboys. It marked the first-career interception for the second-year defensive end, who currently leads Washington with 6.0 sacks.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Sweat said he saw the same play twice during the team's Week 7 matchup with the Cowboys on Oct. 25. The pass sailed over his head both times, so Sweat made sure he got his hands on the ball a month later.

"It was definitely rewarding to get the dub," Sweat said, "and also a very nice reward to get into the end zone."

-- How Randy Jordan evaluates Antonio Gibson: When running backs coach Randy Jordan evaluates rookie Antonio Gibson, he tends not to focus on the "flash plays."

First and foremost, he sees if Gibson is making the first defender miss. Then he looks at if Gibson is picking up more yards than are being blocked.

"I jokingly messed with [Gibson] this past game," Jordan said. "I said, 'A couple of those holes, man, this 50-year-old may have been able to get 20-yards on it.' And he started laughing and he said, 'OK, coach.' But that's what I look for, and as long as he's continuing to get these reps, and he makes guys miss and he gets more yards than are actually being blocked, that's my standard for what a running back should be able to do whenever they're running the ball.

-- Deshazor Everett, Cornelius Lucas on track to return: Safety Deshazor Everett and tackle Cornelius Lucas were full participants in Friday's practice, which is a positive sign heading into Monday's game against the Steelers. Both players missed the past two contests with ankle injuries.

Everett, who supplanted Troy Apke as the starting free safety in Week 6, will likely slide back into the lineup opposite rookie Kamren Curl. Lucas thrived in place of Geron Christian Sr. at left tackle before getting hurt, so that's likely where he'll play if he's available.

That would allow Morgan Moses to move back to his natural position of right tackle against the Steelers, who lead the NFL with 41.0 sacks.

"This group is very talented, they play hard," Lucas said of the Steelers' defensive front. "Defensive scheme-wise, they do a lot of things to be disruptive. Yeah, this group is pretty good. They've been together for a while, their energy feeds off one another, so we're just going to have to match their intensity and be ready."

The Washington Football team held practice at the Inova Sports Performance Center in Ashburn, Virginia, on Dec. 03, 2020. (Photos courtesy of Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team and Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

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