Richmond Times-Dispatch

Washington rolls to victory after knocking Burrow out of game

Home team takes command after Bengals quarterbac­k is lost for season

- BY MICHAEL PHILLIPS

LANDOVER, Md.— A sleepy matchup between a pair of two-win teams was inching toward a forgettabl­e finish, when both clubs’ futures changed in an instant.

“All I heard was a yell, and he was holding his knee,” defensive end Chase Young said.

The yell was Cincinnati quar

terback Joe Burrow’s, and it pierced through a gray, frigid afternoon at FedEx Field, as one of the most exciting young players in football was lost for the season with a knee injury.

From that point, the Washington Football Team turned a deficit into an easy 20-9 victory,

dominating the second half and giving itself an opportunit­y to play for first place in the division on Thanksgivi­ng in Dallas.

“Once he left, things kind of slowed down a bit,” Washington cornerback Ronald Darby said of Burrow’s injury.

That success covered over a disappoint­ing first half for the defense, a group that needed a strong showing against Cincinnati.

The Bengals went to a quick-throw offense, exposing Washington’s linebacker­s and secondary.

And so the question lingers, even after the victory: Is Washington a young team on the rise, poised to seize a division that is up for grabs? Or is this the flawed team that has struggled to hold belowavera­ge NFL rosters in check?

Burrow’s replacemen­t, former N.C. State quarterbac­k Ryan Finley, was sacked four times, and after the game, the defense chose to see the victory as a step in the right direction.

“I just felt like we had a lot more fun out there playing ball together as a group,” Young said. “I felt like we trusted each other a lot more out there today.”

When Burrow left the game, Cincinnati was winning 9-7 and dominating most statistica­l categories. Washington had remained in the game thanks to a handful of missteps by the Bengals — they missed a 33-yard field goal attempt, fumbled at the goal line, and missed an extra point try.

At halftime, the time of possession was slanted toward Cincinnati by a 2-to-1 margin.

That changed early in the third quarter. Burrow was planting to throw when Washington de

fender Jonathan Allen was blocked into his knee by an offensive lineman. Players immediatel­y motioned for medical personnel.

From there, the game turned immediatel­y.

Washington scored a touchdown on its next possession, and as the defense started holding Finley in check, the Football Team’s offense piled up yardage on offense behind running back Antonio Gibson.

“I feel like we fought,” receiver Steven Sims said. “We had a little bit of

[trouble], then we got right back after halftime. We focused, we locked in and then we started rolling as we always do.”

Quarterbac­k Alex Smith claimed his first victory in more than two years, under a set of eerie circumstan­ces. Burrow’s injury cast a similar pall over the proceeding­s, and Washington was wearing the “throwback” jerseys that were worn the day Smith was injured.

“The last time I wore them, I got them cut off of me in the ambulance,”

Smith noted, adding that he likes the design, and he’d been eyeing them all week in the equipment room.

From here, both teams’ futures diverge sharply. Cincinnati seems likely to secure a top-three pick in the NFL draft, barring a stunning turn of events from Finley.

Washington sits a halfgame out of the NFC East race, and if the Football Team can defeat Dallas on Thanksgivi­ng, it can plausibly start talking about a playoff berth.

Whether Washington can do that depends in large part on which defense shows up Thursday — the one that pushed opponents around early in the season, or the one that has been picked apart by short passes for the last three weeks, negating the advantage of the team’s formidable front four.

“We gave up some yardage early in the game in the first half, but ultimately bent but didn’t break,” defensive end

Ryan Kerrigan said. “Then in the second half, I liked what I saw a lot more.”

The Bengals had opportunit­ies to do the breaking but couldn’t take advantage, then were gutted by Burrow’s injury.

But for Washington, a win is a win, and confidence isn’t a bad thing, no matter how it was acquired. Now, it’ll be put to the test under a national spotlight.

“Thanksgivi­ng!” Young said. “LeBron’s going to be watching. Everybody’s going to be watching. It’s time to get that money.”

 ??  ??
 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Cincinnati quarterbac­k Joe Burrowlose­s his helmet as he is tackled byWashingt­on defensive tackle Jonathan Allen (93) and defensive end Chase Young in the first half at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Cincinnati quarterbac­k Joe Burrowlose­s his helmet as he is tackled byWashingt­on defensive tackle Jonathan Allen (93) and defensive end Chase Young in the first half at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Cincinnati quarterbac­k Joe Burrow(9) shakes hands withWashin­gton quarterbac­kDwayne Haskins as Burrows is carted off the fieldwith a knee injury in the second half of the Bengals’ road loss Sunday.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Cincinnati quarterbac­k Joe Burrow(9) shakes hands withWashin­gton quarterbac­kDwayne Haskins as Burrows is carted off the fieldwith a knee injury in the second half of the Bengals’ road loss Sunday.

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