Football Team

Ron Rivera, man of many phrases, has found a new mantra

Football Team
Antonio Gibson

Ron Rivera's menu of phrases may not be as large as The Cheesecake Factory's menu of entrees and desserts, but the Washington Football Team coach does own a vast set of mantras that he often applies to whatever situation he may come across.

Should a reporter try to get Rivera to open up on a juicy storyline that doesn't have a ton to do with his franchise, the next game, etc., Rivera will say, "Don't make what's interesting important."

Then there's another Rivera favorite — "Don't draw me a map unless you've been there" — that he'll break out when discussing the importance of experience.

And, as his roster has ripped off the current four-game winning streak, Rivera's played up the David vs. Goliath narrative by reminding his players, "For every giant, there's a stone."

Judging by Rivera's press conferences since the most recent victory in Las Vegas, he's identified another slogan to use.

His debuting of it came on Monday.

"You've gotta learn to fall in love with the three-yard run," he told reporters on Zoom. "The three-yard run, if you ran two three-yard runs, you're now looking at third-and-4, as opposed to being in third-and-10."

Rivera then went to it again on Wednesday. 

"Because we've fallen in love with the three- and four-yard runs, we've put ourselves in a better position on third downs," he said.

The numbers back up Rivera's claim — and also indicate the utility of his new love interest.

 

No offense in the NFL has gotten into more third-and-4 or less situations than Washington has since Week 10; the Burgundy and Gold have accomplished that on 27 different occasions.

That development has undeniably contributed to the team's major leap in third-down conversion rate (before this stretch, the club was 27th in the category; during it, it's first).

Coordinator Scott Turner, like his boss in Rivera, has come to respect the necessity of smaller runs that keep the unit on schedule, even if they don't necessarily accomplish more than that on their own.

"If we're getting three, four yards, I'll take that," Turner said Thursday. "It's the zeroes and the negatives that throw you off your rhythm."

Antonio Gibson is the man who's been primarily tasked with shouldering the load over the past month-ish, as he's totaled 24,19, 29 and 23 carries in his past four outings. Those gaudy stats haven't exactly led to monster production — the second-year pro's yards-per-carry average in those matchups was 2.67, 5, 3.83 and 3.83.

Now, while Rivera, Turner and everyone else associated with Washington would surely take more chunk plays from Gibson and the other running backs, the repetitive pounding that the offense is handing out is clearly having an effect on opponents.

"You can definitely tell," Turner admitted when asked about defenses getting tired versus Washington. "We've had some long drives, when you get late into those drives, that gives our guys some life. You see the way some guys are finishing blocks, the ball carrier's falling forward, maybe instead of four [yards], it's six. Those are the kind of things you look for."

"We just gotta continue to be good on first and second down and really appreciate what a three-yard run means to us," Rivera said.

Rivera's found something that works, both as an expression and as a strategy. Don't expect him to stop deploying either anytime soon.