Washington has already come a long way under Ron Rivera. Washington still has a long way to go under Ron Rivera, too.
And their Week 15 loss to the Seahawks spoke to both of those points.
Through three quarters, the Burgundy and Gold found themselves in a 20-3 hole against Seattle. Their offense was staler than an old box of crackers and their defense, while giving intense effort, was struggling for the first time in a month.
Yet in the fourth, the hosts fought back. Hard.
Dwayne Haskins, thanks to a combination of nicely-timed balls to Terry McLaurin and JD McKissic as well as decisive scrambles, figured out how to get things moving. Montez Sweat, meanwhile, got his fingers on a Russell Wilson pass that eventually landed in the hands of Daron Payne for a clutch turnover.
While the comeback ended up falling short and the Seahawks exited FedExField on the right side of a 20-15 result, they had to grind for the victory. In past seasons, Washington would've rolled over. This season, their resilience — one of the traits they've rapidly acquired in Rivera's tenure — has made them an unpleasant foe, as Russell Wilson and co. learned on Sunday.
They also, once again, came out of halftime much more inspired and much more productive. That's another area of serious growth the organization has experienced in Rivera's first campaign.
Now, let's get to the not-so-positive stuff.
In the game, Wilson threw for just 121 yards. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett combined for only 77 receiving yards. As a whole, Seattle delivered a C-plus sort of performance and still kept Rivera's club at arm's length for most of the matchup.
If Washington couldn't beat them when they play like that, how would, say, a playoff rematch go when Pete Carroll's squad is clicking?
As much as Jack Del Rio's unit tried, it was evident they still need better linebackers and sharper execution when facing mobile QBs. As for Scott Turner's group, adding more dynamic weapons is a must, and that's true even when Antonio Gibson is healthy.
Fortunately, Washington is still in position to make the postseason. The win certainly would've made that goal much, much easier, but the loss by no means erases their hopes.
What it did do, though, was perhaps take away some of the momentum behind them doing true damage in the postseason. They might be good enough to get there — which would be a tremendous accomplishment for Rivera — but also not good enough to stay there long — which is Rivera's ultimate vision.