The 2021 season is over for the Washington Football Team, and while things didn't go as planned, there were a few noteworthy moments that came from Ron Rivera's second season.
Like the rest of the team, Washington's offense experienced several ups and downs. The highs offered flashes of the unit's potential, while the lows, created in part by injuries and playmakers being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, revealed there are still obstacles to address in the coming months of the offseason.
The positive is that Washington isn't continuing to build from scratch; when the majority of its weapons were on the field, it did show an ability to gain some traction. So, here's a look at some of the top offensive highlights from the season.
Washington had hung tough against the heavily-favored Tampa Bay Buccaneers all the way up to the fourth quarter in Week 10. It never trailed in the matchup and scored on all four of its drives in the first half. With that said, no lead is safe from Tom Brady.
Taylor Heinicke and the offense made sure Brady stayed on the sideline.
With nearly 11 minutes still left to play, Washington got to work at its own 20-yard line and went on a 19-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 10:26 off the clock. Heinicke, who finished the game with 256 yards and a touchdown, completed all six of his passes to five different receivers. Washington faced four third downs in that span and converted three of them -- the last was at the Buccaneers' 1-yard line and was followed by a score from Antonio Gibson.
The drive didn't just secure an upset over last year's Super Bowl champions; it also made history. It was the longest fourth quarter drive in Washington franchise history in terms of plays since 2001. It was the longest fourth quarter drive in terms of time of possession resulting in a touchdown in the NFL since 2001, per Stathead.
It was a simple situation for Washington in the fourth quarter of its Week 4 road game against the Atlanta Falcons. With less than two minutes left, it had one last chance to overcome a 30-28 deficit. If the offense stalled, the Falcons would take the win, and Washington would fall to 1-3.
Thanks to a pair of clutch catches by DeAndre Carter and Adam Humphries, Washington got to Atlanta's side of the 50-yard line with ease. On it's only third down of the drive, Heinicke surveyed the field and looked like he was about to take off before making a throw across the field to McKissic, who caught the ball at the 30-yard line and evaded a defender before running down the right sideline and leaping from the 4-yard line into the end zone.
The play gave Washington a 34-30 lead, meaning the Falcons would have to respond with a touchdown of their own to win. Five plays later, a final pass from Matt Ryan fell incomplete, making McKissic's play the game-winner.
The best part about it: McKissic delivered the moment in front of his family.
"To score a touchdown in front of them is a dream come true," McKissic said.
Terry McLaurin continues to add to his impressive resume.
McLaurin, who recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2020, knew he was close to accomplishing it again heading into Week 18, partly because his teammates were reminding him throughout the week. They wanted to see one of their captains, who consistently went out of his way to help them improve, achieve the feat with 40 yards to go.
McLaurin didn't keep them waiting. Two catches, one of which resulted in a 30-yard gain, during Washington's opening drive pushed him over the milestone less than three minutes into the game. It was the start of an impressive day for the wideout, as he went on to finish with four receptions for 93 yards on six targets.
It had been a long time -- 24 years, in fact -- since Washington had a receiver get back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The last player to do it was Henry Ellard in 1994-96. Rather than keep all the fame form himself, he used the opportunity to praise his teammates after the win.
"I don't think I could really do that without the guys that are in the locker room, from the quarterbacks, to the O-line, to the other receivers."
Antonio Gibson called himself a weapon when Washington drafted him in the third round of the 2020 draft. He's been living up to that self-given description for the past two seasons, and his Week 18 performance added an exclamation point to just how dangerous he can be.
Gibson ran all over the Giants in the 22-7 win, putting up 146 yards on 21 carries. That marked a personal high, but it was his 18-yard score in the fourth quarter that made franchise history. It gave him 21 touchdowns for his career, which surpassed Alfred Morris for the most offensive touchdowns within a player's first two seasons in franchise history.
Gibson now has two consecutive seasons with 10-plus touchdowns, making him the first Washington player to do so since Stephen Davis in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. His progress as a runner, in addition to being one of Washington's top scorers since he joined the Burgundy & Gold, is why his offensive line loves blocking for him.
"It's something he's been doing a much better job at that I've seen," said Charles Leno Jr. "It's still his second year playing running back and he's still young at the position. But he's willing to learn and he's really good at receiving coaching."