The Washington Football Team turned to Kyle Allen to help spark a team entering a pivotal stretch. Now that they've lost 20-19 to the previously winless New York Giants, it's hard to know where this team can turn. At times he provided a spark; at times he made crucial mistakes.
Ron Rivera's reasons for benching Dwayne Haskins Jr. were sound: He has to mature in the ways that two coaching staffs have now asked him to do. If a quarterback isn't handling his business a certain way, then his development will be stunted.
But it hasn't gone well for Washington since that move, and the question then becomes where do they go from here? They still have some winnable games, but they're also on a five-game losing streak. They're a team that others now point to on their schedules as a winnable game.
Washington showed a lot of resolve in coming back from a 13-3 deficit and nearly won the game except for a failed 2-point conversion with less than a minute remaining.
It's not just that the offense has struggled. That was predictable regardless of the quarterback considering the youth and lack of proven playmakers. But it's that the defense hasn't been better overall, although the unit only allowed 13 points to the Giants. This loss, like the one in Cleveland, comes back to turnovers.
An interception led to a touchdown. A fumble was returned for another score.
This was a crushing loss Sunday, not just because of the 2-point conversion. Washington needed a win to prove it's headed in the right direction. There's a lot of time left for growth this season, but any talk of contending in the NFC East will have to end for a while.
QB Breakdown: Allen had some moments when it was clear why he was in the game. He competed and made some plays because of his mobility. He did a good job for most of the game at taking what was available. However, he also threw a costly interception in the first quarter that led to a touchdown and his fumble in the fourth was returned for the winning score. Allen also missed some targets that could have resulted in big plays. He did respond well after his first pick, completing 13 of his next 15 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, plus led a drive for a field goal. He led a touchdown drive after losing a fumble. That's all good. But this team needed a win.
Troubling trend: The continued big plays allowed by the defense. At this point it's not a trend -- it's who they are. The defense has now allowed nine plays of 40 or more yards -- only four fewer than all of last season. Some of it is just poor discipline. On quarterback Daniel Jones' 49-yard run off a zone read, safety Landon Collins only needed to play the edge and he was in position to make a play. But he bit hard inside, along with the defensive end, and Jones was off to the races. The back seven for Washington needs a lot of improving.
Pivotal play: With just under four minutes remaining, and Washington facing a third-and-9 from the New York 45-yard line, Allen was pressured in the pocket off a stunt. As he was going to the ground, the ball was poked free and linebacker Tae Crowder scooped it up and returned the ball for the winning touchdown. Receiver Terry McLaurin gave chase and nearly caught Crowder, but he ran out of room. A big issue was how the left side of the line handled the stunt as Geron Christian and Wes Schweitzer were working together for the first time. Christian was left trying to stop the linebacker rushing inside and failed.
Pivotal play, part 2: After Allen connected with Cam Sims for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining, Rivera opted to go for the win. But the Giants played excellent coverage and Allen tried to extend the play and ended up throwing incomplete in the end zone. It was a curious decision. Washington had all sorts of offensive momentum in the second half and was playing well. They would have had the edge in overtime. But Rivera has earned a reputation for gambling, and it paid off twice for him Sunday with two successful fourth-down conversions. He needed a third. Rivera, though, is also looking at the big picture with these moves. He wants to teach his players how to win, and that factored into his decision. It didn't help now; it'll have to pay off later.