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Turns out Washington's playoff loss came to the NFC champs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Three Saturdays ago, the Washington Football Team -- led by fourth-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke -- came a few plays away from beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Fast forward two weeks and Tom Brady and the Bucs are now headed to Super Bowl LV after edging Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, 31-26, on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.
And, whether you like it or not, Tampa Bay's playoff success this January carries weight for those Washington fans optimistic about the Football Team's future.
Entering the Wild Card matchup against the Bucs, few gave Washington a chance. Without quarterback Alex Smith -- who went 5-1 as a starter for the Burgundy and Gold this season -- Washington entered its first postseason contest in five years as a home double-digit underdog.
Yet, Heinicke played exceptional in Smith's absence -- so well that some fans want him to get a legitimate shot to win the QB1 job next August. Washington's offense left some points on the board, but played one of its better games of the season with 23 points against a talented Bucs defense.
With under two minutes remaining in Washington's playoff clash against Tampa, WFT had possession of the ball with a chance to tie Brady and the Bucs. No, they didn't end up completing the comeback, but it was a valiant effort from the home side.
"I mean, hell, we barely lost to the Buccaneers and we didn't particularly play that well in that game," pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan said earlier this month. "It shows you the kind of potential we have as a team."
Let's be clear: there are no moral victories in the NFL. A banner reading 'We lost to the eventual NFC Champions' won't be hanging in FedEx Field.
But, Washington's effort from a few weeks ago against Tampa proved this: the Football Team can play with one of the best teams in the NFL. That's something they can hang their hats on as they gear up for a critical offseason in coach Ron Rivera's second year.