The Washington Football Team looks to be taking steps forward and improving. No, they aren't the biggest steps — imagine the kind you take on your driveway when it's covered in a sheet of ice; yeah, those short and deliberate ones — yet they are seemingly headed in the right direction.
The Burgundy and Gold sit at just 2-5 as they come out of their bye week, but their two recent matchups against the Giants and the Cowboys have represented two of their top three efforts in 2020.
Again, losing to a winless rival by one point and beating up on another with a garbage defense and a backup quarterback aren't worth bragging about at all. However, it's a start.
It may be more than that, too, when you add in Ron Rivera's record in the second half of seasons as a head coach. In September and October, he's 34-38-1. In November and December, though, he's 43-32.
In a one-on-one with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay on Monday, Rivera assessed why his Panthers squads turned it on as the schedule progressed.
"Well, historically, being in Carolina, it was a little different in terms of the way we had to go through training camp with the heat and everything like that," he told Finlay on Monday. "It always seemed everything always built up to a crescendo."
Rivera also touched on the topic in his general presser with the media, explaining why those "crescendos" occurred later in the calendar.
“I think players have aha moments," Rivera said. "All of a sudden it’s: ‘Ah, I see what the coaches are saying. I see what they’re trying to show us. OK, that makes sense.’ Again, part of it is we didn’t have OTAs. We didn’t have minicamp. We didn’t have a normal training camp for these guys to look and see and adapt and get used to things. What’s happening now is we’re having these aha moments, and hopefully they continue where it makes sense."
It's become a bit tiresome hearing so many people in the league refer back to the shortened offseason, especially as that offseason drifts further into the past. That doesn't mean it's not a valid point, though, and the lack of time together was even more impactful on franchises with new staffs, like Washington.
Skeptics will brush off what Rivera's roster has done lately simply because of the opponents they did it against, which is understandable. Still, with the way the NFC East is going to stack up come Week 17, it's not like Washington needs to become an elite club; incrementally growing could easily be enough for them to make the playoffs.
Rivera definitely sees it that way.
"That's kind of what I'm hoping for now," he said. "We put it together now and really play some of our better football as we start getting down to the end of the season."
Rivera experienced crescendos in Carolina. In Washington, he'd likely settle for a mere boost in volume. They don't have to rise above the rest of the NFC, they just simply have to be louder than the rest of their division. That is absolutely possible.