This article originally appeared on USA TODAY Sports+: 'Let's roll': Washington Football Team gains momentum at right time

'Let's roll': Washington Football Team gains momentum at right time

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) celebrates after running for a gain against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Tyler Dragon
USA TODAY Sports+

LAS VEGAS – Many players on the Washington Football Team struggled to remember Brian Johnson’s name. The rookie kicker and product of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. just signed with the team Tuesday.

It took five days to gain the respect of his teammates and become a hometown celebrity.

On his first field-goal attempt as a member of the Washington Football Team, Johnson drilled a 48-yard game-winner to lift Washington past the Las Vegas Raiders 17-15 in a hostile road environment.

“Kicking for the hometown team is tough," Johnson said after the game. “And kicking the first field goal for pretty much a game-winner — it was insane."

REPLAY:The Crew with Chris Harris Jr.

Johnson and the rest of the Washington Football Team have a good reason to smile all the way back home following Sunday's hard-fought victory.

Washington clung to a lead most of the game until the Raiders mounted a fourth-quarter rally. But Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke engineered the winning drive with a two-minute drill. Derek Carr and the Raiders had one last chance with 37 seconds remaining but failed to get into field goal range.

Sunday was a customary December NFL defensive battle. Yet, Heinicke displayed the type of grit and poise that’s helped him win over his teammates. Each time Washington needed Heinicke most, he delivered.

Heinicke was 23 of 30 passing for 196 yards and had two touchdowns to go along with one interception. The fourth-year quarterback completed four passes on the team's final possession to put Johnson in comfortable range to convert the winning field goal. 

“Heinicke, what can you say about him? He keeps showing why he needs to be our quarterback,” Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said. “When everything is against him and you don’t expect him to do well going against Hall of Famers, going against defenses with star-studded defensive linemen and when his weapons keep going down, he just makes plays.

"He’s a playmaker.”

More importantly, Sunday’s victory extended Washington’s win streak to four. At 6-6, Washington is now just two games behind its arch rival, the Dallas Cowboys (8-4), ahead of their Week 14 showdown. All five games remaining on Washington’s schedule are against NFC East opponents, including two against the Cowboys.

Washington controls its destiny and is gaining confidence at the right time.

When asked what Sunday’s fourth consecutive win does for the team’s confidence as players attempt to dig themselves out of an early-season hole and compete for a second-straight division title, Heinicke said, “It’s huge.”

"We beat Tampa. We beat Carolina, who had a good defense and it was Cam’s (Newton) homecoming. We beat Seattle on Monday night. The confidence just keeps building and building,” Heinicke told USA TODAY Sports+. "We feel good where our team is at right now. Hopefully we just keep the ball rolling."

The ball is rolling at an opportune point in the season for Washington, a team on a quest to be the first NFC East team to win back-to-back division crowns since the Philadelphia Eagles won four-consecutive NFC titles from 2001-04.

Washington is one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but they still have a lot of work ahead with a handful of games left to play.  

“We got five divisional games in a row. We are gonna take one at a time,” Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said. “We are playing the division leader twice. (Sunday) is the first one. We need everybody. All hands-on deck. Let’s roll.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports+ NFL Insider Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.

SPORTS SMILE:NFL players reveal custom cleats for special 'My Cause My Cleats' initiative