Football Team

How Washington plans to avoid post-Steelers hangover Sunday

Football Team

Washington taking out Pittsburgh this past Monday was a major step toward them proving that they are a genuine playoff threat. 

However, that step will very quickly be forgotten if the Burgundy and Gold comes out this weekend against the 49ers and flops.

Think about it: Washington rocked uniforms that hadn't been worn in more than a decade for their meeting with the Steelers, Ron Rivera had a member of his staff flood his players' phones with a hype video before kickoff and the AFC power was undefeated going into the tilt. It's quite easy to be geared up for an opponent when all of those factors are a part of the equation.

Will this roster, which is extremely young at many spots, be ready to follow that victory up with another one? When they have to travel out west on a short week? And their foe is 5-7 as opposed to 11-0? 

Rivera is wary of a letdown, as he explained on Zoom. 

"That's one of the things I was concerned with," the coach, who gathered his guys before their Thursday practice for a pre-session reminder to stay locked in, told reporters in a presser afterward.

"After big wins, you can't pick up where you left off," he said. "You just can't, because if you do, you're going to miss the little details."

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Knocking out the Steelers was a massive result for the organization's postseason chances, but their work is far, far from done with. After all, the Giants scored an equally-clutch Week 13 upset over the Seahawks and are still the ones on top in the NFC East.

Like Rivera, Alex Smith is making it a point to ensure those around him aren't letting up. In his mind, San Francisco will absolutely make them pay if they do.

"If anyone thinks you're going to go through the motions with a team like this, you're in for a rude awakening," Smith said.

"You can turn on the tape and immediately tell how well-coached they are, how much pride they have as a group."

For a group that already struggles in the early stages of games — they still have yet to score a single point on an opening drive and some of their first half and second half splits shade heavily toward the latter — any type of slip in focus could put them in a very regrettable spot versus the Niners. 

So, while many believe what happened at Heinz Field was the surest sign yet that Rivera's rebuild is working, what goes down this Sunday might actually be a superior clue to how close Washington is to legitimacy.

"What we did, how we played Monday night doesn't guarantee we're going to do it again this week," Rivera said.