What Ron Rivera saw from his defense on Detroit's biggest plays


Explosive plays is one of the NFL's more buzzy phrases and, sadly, those who work on Washington's defense or support the franchise as fans hear it with alarming consistency and with a negative connotation.

That was definitely the case in the Commanders' Week 2 loss to the Lions, as Detroit's offense (and special teams, too) routinely ran into open spaces versus Ron Rivera's team — and then kept running, running and running from there.

In a Monday press conference and after having the opportunity to scrutinize the tape from the game at Ford Field, Rivera chronicled what went wrong on a couple of Washington's worst efforts. 

Here's a breakdown of his breakdown...

Amon-Ra St. Brown's way-too-easy 49-yard reception

On the Lions' second possession of the tilt, Jared Goff connected with St. Brown over the middle on a third-and-3. Thanks to a bust that involved Benjamin St-Juste and William Jackson III both choosing to go with Josh Reynolds instead of someone staying with Reynolds and someone picking up St. Brown, this is what St. Brown encountered following his catch:

In other words, he encountered, basically, nothing.

"We screwed up a coverage there," Rivera told reporters Monday. 

That particular explanation didn't take long because, well, it's awfully clear what transpired. Moving on.

D'Andre Swift's 50-yard run

Swift entered Sunday with an injured ankle and, on this highlight, he found a temporary yet effective cure for his ailment — Washington's woeful run defense:

Per Rivera, this mishap was the fault of many.

"We got scooped," he said. "Two-hatted if you want, which basically means one of our D-linemen got knocked out of his gap, one of our linebackers didn't fall back like he should have and one of our safeties didn't get to his spot."


As Goff goes to hand the ball off to Swift, Sweat is the Commander who gets "two-hatted"; a pair of Lions combine to occupy him completely. 

The linebacker, meanwhile, that Rivera calls out appears to be Jamin Davis, who flows too hard toward Sweat and isn't quick enough to change directions and fill the area that Sweat vacated. (Cole Holcomb, however, wasn't innocent here, as he was easily dismissed by a blocker in a separate one-on-one).

Lastly, Darrick Forrest is likely the defensive back who "didn't get to his spot." Forrest tries to charge into the box to help out, but as he does, it looks like he darts inside when he should've settled more on the exterior to outflank Swift.

So... yeah. That wasn't a banner moment for anyone wearing a white jersey.

St. Brown's 58-yard dash

Thanks to a post-halftime outburst from Carson Wentz and the offense, the Commanders transformed a 22-0 blowout into a 22-15 affair with a little more than three minutes left in the third quarter.

A little less than two minutes later, due largely to this St. Brown sweep (and the sequence mentioned next), the visitors fell behind by another touchdown:

"We got cracked," Rivera said about this St. Brown scamper. "We were trying to match that guy and we didn't replace like we should have."

Sure, Sweat's recognition of this run was lacking, as he was focused on Goff and Swift and didn't think about the receiver-turned-ball-carrier until it was too late.

But the real problem is what happens on the edge, where St-Juste — who had to track an in-motion St. Brown across the formation — gets walled off by a different wideout and Jackson III is unaware that he has to take down St. Brown until, again, it's too late. 

Swift's 22-yard touchdown grab/stumble/score

While this one spanned the shortest distance of the four snaps described in this story, it definitely registered the most pain.

Despite having to crouch down for Goff's tipped throw, an act that ultimately caused him to legitimately fall and then lie down on his stomach in the middle of a professional football play, Swift was able to make it into the end zone and put his squad back up by double digits:

 First, Rivera walked through the choice to blitz Goff as opposed to sitting back on what was a third-and-15.

"Could we have called a coverage? Yeah," Rivera said. "But we were kind of hoping, maybe, we get them and knock them out of field goal range, or maybe make it a little bit longer of a field goal."

Then, the coach assessed the action itself.

"When you watch the tape like we do, we had a guy that didn't cover his guy," Rivera said, declining to identify who he was referring to specifically. "If our guy goes and hugs up on Swift... like he should have, there's a chance we could have intercepted it, knocked it down, or made the tackle immediately."


"We had one guy who did not do his job," he added.

The unnamed player Rivera brought up might've been Montez Sweat, who stutter steps when he notices Swift sprinting to the flat but then continues his pursuit of Goff without contacting the running back. Or, perhaps Rivera wanted more from one of the five defensive backs who resided near the first down line before this debacle ever began and proceeded to whiff on Swift once he gathered himself.

Either way, while Rivera attempted to stay calm as he talked through this gaffe and the others on Monday, he and the defense will rapidly lose patience if improvements don't rapidly happen in the coming weeks.