On Washington's potential road to the 2021 playoffs, Sunday's home loss to the Cowboys should be treated as a speed bump, not as a complete blockade.
Sure, the NFC East feels all but conceded thanks to the defeat versus Dallas, seeing as the Cowboys now hold a three-game advantage over the Burgundy and Gold.
The NFC Wild Card, though? That is still totally tangible for Ron Rivera's club, even after Week 14's painful-in-more-ways-than-one result.
In fact, while Washington dropped from sixth to seventh in the conference's playoff picture, it still is sitting above the likes of the Vikings, Eagles, Saints and Falcons. Even though all five of those organizations own 6-7 records, Rivera's crew currently has the advantage thanks to tiebreakers.
Deep. Breath. Everyone.
December losses are crucial and December losses to hated rivals are especially so, but the bottom line is that Washington's head coach can still look at his team this coming week and tell each player that they control their future fate.
That said, their fate will be an unfortunate one if they can't correct what went wrong at FedEx Field on Sunday. Let's not pretend like this situation is all puppies, butterflies and ice cream.
During Washington's four-game winning streak that made the thought of mid-January football a legitimate one, the offense was: committed to and consistent with its rushing attack, dominant in the time of possession battle and money on third down.
In the tilt with Dallas, all three of those factors were missing, and because of that, Taylor Heinicke was exposed. Coordinator Scott Turner's unit employs a specific formula when it's at its best, and that formula never had a chance in what was a 24-0 shellacking by halftime.
Heinicke and Taylor McLaurin prematurely departing with injuries is also worth being concerned about, of course.
To the defense's credit, that group largely held in there against Dak Prescott's bunch as it continued its second-half resurgence. There were performances worth building off of for Jack Del Rio's charges.
The problem is that Washington isn't overwhelmingly talented on either side of the line of scrimmage and therefore must play complementary football. Sadly, Sunday's effort was mostly one-sided for the hosts until it was far too late.
Here's the thing, however: Nothing that transpired in the contest was all that surprising. It was discouraging for Rivera and Co., yes, but not exactly enlightening.
Washington can't afford to fall behind big early (like it did with the Cowboys), because if it does, it'll have to stray from running and rely on Heinicke (like it did with the Cowboys), which will lead to the quarterback making some sketchy decisions and, most likely, committing serious mistakes (like he did with the Cowboys).
Looking ahead, the team has dates with the Eagles, the Cowboys again, the Eagles again and the Giants left. Should the squad rediscover the foundation that it used to vault from 2-6 to 6-6, a 3-1 finish in the upcoming stretch is totally doable. With that, a Wild Card berth could very well come, too.
Sunday wasn't productive, yet Sunday also wasn't decisive. Quite frankly, Washington's desired destination remains reachable. Speed bumps are meant to be driven over, after all.