Peak of postseason proves how far Washington has to climb


The Bengals, Titans, 49ers, Packers, Rams, Buccaneers, Bills and Chiefs all technically played the same sport this past weekend that the Washington Football Team does, in the same sense that Steve Jobs and Alexander Graham both produced phones.

Yet Saturday and Sunday's riveting postseason action further proved just how far away the Burgundy and Gold is from truly being relevant in the NFL.

Be wary of any Washington supporter who claims that they could imagine their squad participating in top-notch battles like the ones that made up the NFL Divisional Round, because if they're saying that, they have a very tenuous grip on reality. With the understanding that the four contests we all witnessed were exceedingly outstanding and not just regularly outstanding, Ron Rivera's club still feels way behind the sport's top contenders.

Start with what took place in Kansas City, where two mega-superstar quarterbacks took turns orchestrating drives in increasingly pressure-packed situations. That shootout saw 25 points added to the scoreboard after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter and 78 points overall.

Washington's four-game winning streak this year, meanwhile, featured a pair of 17-15 victories, and the offense as a whole failed to average 20 points per week.

The talent gap between the Bills and Chiefs and then Rivera's group wasn't just evident at QB, either, though that is absolutely the primary reason why Washington remains an afterthought these days. Rotational receiver Gabriel Davis registered four touchdowns for Buffalo, and Patrick Mahomes seemed to pick up chunks of yardage no matter whom he threw to.


Only Terry McLaurin caught more than four scoring strikes for Washington in 2021, and in terms of overall catches, the team's second- and third-leading receivers were running backs.

Now seems like an appropriate space to also mention that Washington squared off with both Buffalo and Kansas City in the fall and lost those affairs by 22 and 18, respectively (and don't forget that the former was labeled as a "measuring stick" for Washington).

What unfolded at Arrowhead Stadium wasn't the only reminder of Rivera and Co.'s plight, however.

In Tennessee, an opportunistic Cincinnati defense and a completely clutch Joe Burrow transformed a devastating playoff defeat into one of the Bengals' best triumphs in a matter of seconds.

In Green Bay, a well-built San Francisco defense and a plucky special teams operation went into Lambeau Field to upset Aaron Rodgers in what most viewed as a minor stepping stone for the Packers on their path to the Super Bowl.

And in Tampa, yes, what was a humming Rams offense and swarming Los Angeles defense very nearly collapsed in epic fashion, but Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp managed to stave off embarrassment and regret in order to send their side to the NFC Championship.

Sure, it's fair to acknowledge that, roughly 12 months ago, Washington sort of pushed the Bucs at FedEx Field on Wild Card weekend, as Taylor Heinicke did his best to eliminate Tom Brady.

Having said that, the hosts were only in that position due to a dreadful NFC East and Brady did end up tickling 400 yards in what was an eight-point win. Even the fondest memories of that matchup are somewhat sobering.

Besides, that postseason appearance has since been backed up by a 7-10 campaign and little, if any, progress.

Washington is, like usual, searching for something merely close to a Josh Allen/Burrow/Mahomes/Stafford-like leader, with no real plan for identifying that guy. The rest of the depth chart is, as has been the norm, devoid of difference makers. The organization is, not surprisingly, basically stuck.

So, until drastic changes are made and heroic players are acquired, the only hope for Washington fans to see football at its finest is to turn on their TVs and watch other franchises suit up. At least the joy of that experience can distract them from their moribund team for a couple of hours at a time.