Football Team

Rivera's reasoning for fourth down call is nearly as good as play itself

Football Team

Ron Rivera's decision to go for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter of Sunday's opener very much helped Washington win in Week 1.

That may not be the only Sunday that brave call impacts, though.

After taking over near midfield with the score tied at 17, the hosts drove all the way down to the Eagles' four-yard line. That's where a short Dwayne Haskins scramble ended, which set up a fourth-and-1.

Dustin Hopkins didn't come out to knock in the easy kick, however, which would've given the Burgundy and Gold the lead. Instead, after a timeout, Rivera sent his offense back out on the field, and Peyton Barber was just able to get around the right end for the conversion.

Barber would find the end zone a couple of snaps later, allowing Washington to go up by a full touchdown instead of by a field goal. It was an enormous statement — one nearly outdone by Rivera's statement on why he went for it in that spot.

“I did that to show the guys I really believe in them," he told the media after the sweet 27-17 victory. "My first couple years as a head coach, I made that mistake, not showing the team early enough that I believed in them and it took a little bit longer. I want these guys to know that I believe in them and I believe we could get that first down and they did. It was a heck of an effort."

 

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Was the choice risky? Absolutely. Would Rivera have been roasted if Barber hadn't had enough burst to get past the chains? Absolutely squared.

But Rivera was willing to take that chance in order to show his roster that he trusted them, and he was rewarded for it. And the reward may only just be beginning.

Outside of a few stalwarts like Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Allen, and Brandon Scherff, plus a handful of others, Washington is made up of young or unproven (and, in some cases, both young and unproven) players.

The quarterback is getting his first opportunity as the full-time starter and most of his targets don't have many receptions on their résumés. On defense, meanwhile, the pass rush is headed up by a rookie and a second-year pro, and the other levels of the unit have their share of inexperience as well. 

How confident are all those guys right now, knowing that their boss didn't back down from the defending division champs? That's something that could carry over into future contests and even set the tone for an entire schedule.

"I hesitated for a second about the field goal, but I said, ‘Hey forget it,’" Rivera added. "We didn’t come here to tie, we came here to win a football game. That was my attitude going off those two decisions that I made.”

On the play-by-play, Rivera's move was good for one yard. In reality, it was, and will be, worth much more.