Pete Hailey is not a current or former NFL player, nor is he a current or former NFL coach. He is a reporter. Therefore, this space won't be used to closely analyze schemes or assign blame on coverage breakdowns or anything like that related to the Washington Football Team, because those things are hard to discern without knowing the design of and plan for a given play.
That said, he does cover Washington on a day-to-day basis, meaning he can (hopefully) pass along helpful observations after re-watching each of the franchise's games. So, here's what stood out to him from the Week 10 win over Carolina:
- Taylor Heinicke's 206 passing yards in Week 11 is a very modest number in the current NFL, but his overall performance versus one of his previous employers was anything but. All three of his touchdown throws came from inside the 13-yard line, where windows are tight and traffic is heavy. And those three scoring strikes weren't even his best sequence; the fourth-down dropback, scramble, stop and throw to John Bates was clutch and creative. Lastly, he mixed in a few necessary scrambles that picked up a couple of chunks. He won't play turnover-free football the rest of the way, but hopefully, he's able to duplicate the balance between Electric Taylor and Efficient Taylor that he's discovered the past two games.
- Terry McLaurin finished with 5 grabs for 103 yards and that stat line could've been even gaudier. His final catch of the afternoon came with more than five minutes left in the third quarter, so he went the last 20 minutes of action unused. Washington tried to reach him, of course, but two Heinicke deep shots — one that could've been completed if No. 4 laid it out more to the sideline and open portion of the field instead of up the hashmarks and another that would've gone for a TD if Heinicke was a tad more accurate — just missed. Even so, McLaurin's six-pointer was sick — he converted it despite a defender seemingly trying to remove the wideout's facemask from his helmet — and he had a 30- and 39-yarder as well.
- McLaurin got just enough help from other pass catchers on Sunday. Cam Sims registered his first end zone visit of 2021 and had a crucial third-down reception in the second half. Adam Humphries, like Sims, hauled in only two balls, but each was massive: The first was on third down and was immediately followed by the McLaurin touchdown, while the second picked up 18 yards on a third-and-21, which made Heinicke's ridiculous fourth-down highlight possible. And DeAndre Carter, oddly enough, also had two catches, with each also representing major moments: One went for 18 yards on fourth-and-3 and the other ended in that important painted rectangle to commence the third quarter. This group would still be so much better off with Curtis Samuel, but the supporting guys did make a difference in Carolina.
- The best part of Bates' Week 11 came when he slid to snare Heinicke's fourth-down toss, but he also assisted on Carter's TD. Carter ran an in-then-out route, and as he did so, Bates did a good job locking up with a Panther and causing some confusion for the defense. It was subtle yet valuable. Tight ends coach Pete Hoener just continues to get production out of backups and should probably be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize or something for his work.
- Random one here, but the horse collar tackle penalty on Cole Holcomb on the contest's opening drive was junk. The other two 15-yard flags on Washington were legit, but that one was a miss.
- As for Holcomb, he keeps making a difference. He was a stud last week against the Bucs when it came to wrapping Leonard Fournette up, and this time around, he was once again solid. On one third down in the second half, the linebacker feigned a blitz, was able to drop back into his zone and then knocked away a Cam Newton pass. Jamin Davis is still coming along, albeit slowly (though he did seem to have a grasp on a couple of Newton's read-option handoffs/keepers), but Holcomb has been a constant for the middle of the defense.
- It's a real shame that Antonio Gibson's outing began and ended so poorly, because the rest was encouraging. He's gotten really good this season at tacking on extra yardage at the end of runs by lowering his shoulder and bouncing off of tacklers. That said, he's now lost three fumbles and his inability to stay in bounds as the clock was running out in the fourth was as basic an error as you'll see by a pro. JD McKissic and Jaret Patterson are skilled enough to thrive in their particular roles, but Gibson needs to earn the staff's trust back because the offense moves best when he's rolling.
- One thing Jonathan Allen has always done is give excellent effort, and that was evident again on a second-quarter screen. After breaking through the line and realizing that a quick dump-off was coming, Allen backtracked and chased down Christian McCaffrey before the star could really get moving. It's nice when one of your best players competes like an undrafted free agent.
- When can Washington sign Joey Slye to a 15-year contract? Now? Is a 15-year deal not enough? Should it be 20? Someone, please advise.
- Kam Curl's fourth-down stuff of McCaffrey was terrific, and not just by him. On the play, you can see Casey Toohill pause his rush in order to make contact with McCaffrey and disrupt his timing, even if it was only for a split second. Curl takes over from there, as he closes on the running back and collides with him just before the line to gain. Coaches rave about Curl's intelligence and he displayed it there.
- Lastly, while Troy Apke isn't anyone's idea of a fan favorite in Washington, his recovery of a Carter fumble during a kickoff return has to be appreciated. The special teamer was able to spot the ball among a pile of players and secure it before the Panthers could for a devastating turnover. The ensuing possession would go on to result in McLaurin's touchdown. It's not an exaggeration to say that Apke saved a Burgundy and Gold win by being so aware.