Put all that apart, and right here’s what an NFL season being staged throughout a pandemic appears like: Within the fourth quarter of a tie sport, Washington working again Peyton Barber burst by way of the road of scrimmage and into the tip zone for what can be the game-winning rating. The general public deal with announcer blared, “Contact-doooooooown, Washington!” Who these phrases had been meant for stays unclear. The response in a constructing that holds 82,000 folks: a burst of enthusiasm from the Washington bench, and an empty echo that rattled across the seats. Within the NFL of 2020, vitality and momentum can solely come from inside.
By this level within the novel coronavirus pandemic, the concept of taking part in sports activities in vacant stadiums can nearly appear rote. Know this: In particular person, it’s decidedly odd, even eerie. Solely Kansas Metropolis and Jacksonville welcomed mask-wearing followers this week. Till additional discover, that’s how this NFL season might be carried out. Almost 6.5 million circumstances of a virus that has killed greater than 190,000 People will trigger groups and authorities to make such selections out of each warning and customary sense.
However at the same time as we settle into probably the most uncommon NFL season on file, a pertinent query arose throughout a dizzying Sunday at FedEx Subject: If the Washington Soccer Group is, certainly, overhauled in each fashion and substance, and nobody is round to see it, can it actually be occurring?
Blink your eyes clear, as a result of what transpired Sunday — a 17-Zero Washington deficit that someway was a Washington win — was actual, very actual.
“We didn’t have quite a bit to gauge on who we’re and who we’re going to grow to be,” first-year head coach Ron Rivera mentioned. “However we had a possibility to point out, and the blokes did.”
Which qualifies as a stunner, as a result of so usually in such moments in years previous, Washington can be given the chance to point out and would sniff at it, decidedly disinterested. Shoot, a 12 months in the past within the season opener — this one at Philly — Washington shot out to a 17-Zero lead — and misplaced. Given the franchise’s DNA, that got here to the shock of exactly nobody.
But listed below are the issues which have modified since this group final received a soccer sport: the identify, the group president, the coach, the radio crew. What has now modified, even for a single day: the end result.
“It bodes nicely for who we are able to grow to be as a soccer group,” Rivera mentioned.
Forgive him, Washington followers. He’s new right here.
Nonetheless, what a factor to permit your self to assume. And to get the gamers to assume. And to get the fan base to assume.
Even earlier than the sport began, there have been delicate indications that Washington may be a unique soccer group. Extra essential than a win or loss — for any group in any metropolis throughout this opening weekend — was the concept NFL gamers are actually inspired to current their views on racial and societal injustices to the general public, to make use of their platforms. So a couple of half hour earlier than kickoff, the Philadelphia and Washington gamers lined up on reverse hash marks, confronted one another and locked arms — a present of unity.
The Eagles then left the sphere. Washington remained. When the names of Black People who’ve been killed by the hands of police confirmed on a video board, the gamers and employees knelt — collectively. When the nationwide anthem started, the gamers and employees stood — collectively. Just a few gamers raised their fists.
These moments, they are often transferring. However for the group, there have been no surprises. Over the course of the week, the gamers had met to debate one of the best method — collectively.
“I needed to discover a manner for us as a group to be unified — not one particular person kneeling, one particular person sitting down, one particular person standing up,” quarterback Dwayne Haskins mentioned. “We’re a group. I do know everybody has their very own opinions and the whole lot, however that’s what life is about. It’s determining how folks really feel.”
There’s one thing to a group listening to 1 one other, even when it’s not on issues of taking part in the proper protection or working the proper routes. There’s received to be a hyperlink between that unity Washington’s gamers confirmed earlier than the sport and the best way Washington got here again throughout it.
“I assumed that was one of many causes we had been in a position to come again and win,” Haskins mentioned. “We’re a household.”
On the heart of that’s Rivera. Not as a result of he pushed his gamers to do one factor or one other. Quite, just because he listens to them. He cares how they really feel. The franchise he’s employed by is unusually aware of tumult and turbulence. This offseason — with the identify change adopted by two damning tales in The Washington Put up that outlined an surroundings of rampant sexism below proprietor Daniel Snyder — set a brand new customary. Throw in Rivera’s most cancers analysis, and there’s only a continual feeling round this franchise: What subsequent?
“It’s been a tricky offseason,” Rivera mentioned. “It actually has.”
After which, simply greater than 23 minutes into the season, his group trailed 17-0.
“I’m undecided who performed that first quarter for us in burgundy,” Rivera mentioned.
Uh, once more, people. He’s new right here. Jay Gruden might inform him. Mike Shanahan might inform him. Jim Zorn might inform him. Shoot, a penny for the ideas from the proprietor’s field at that time.
There was no crowd to boo, which can have been a reduction. However there was nowhere to show for assist, both. This needed to come from Rivera and his employees. It needed to come from the gamers themselves.
“I simply love the resilience,” Rivera mentioned.
Think about that. For as soon as, it could have been good to listen to a FedEx Subject crowd’s response to a high quality that has been scarce right here for many years. Resilience? From the Redsk . . . er, the Washington Soccer Group? Choose a extra sudden Washington soccer end result from the previous 20 years. Possibly that Monday night time 15 years in the past in Dallas, when Mark Brunell overcame a 13-Zero deficit by hitting Santana Moss for 2 scores within the final 4 minutes? Possibly.
With this soccer in a pandemic, there’s all types of stuff to get used to. With one weekend down, there’s no solution to but decide whether or not it’ll be successful come January.
That’s additionally true for Washington. Change was afoot right here all offseason. The burst of success it introduced within the opener has not but been sustained. However on one sunny Sunday afternoon when followers might solely watch from afar, you may permit your self to assume that this time, lastly, the change would possibly matter.