A week after giving up just 17 points to the Eagles, the Washington Football Team's defense allowed the Cardinals to score 30. For most, that's all they need to see to understand the unit wasn't as effective in their follow-up effort as they were in their debut.
The Burgundy and Gold coaching staff digs far deeper than most, though, and when reviewing what went down in Arizona, they picked up on something more troubling than a number on a scoreboard.
"[Sunday] was a little bit of a disappointment because we stepped backward," Ron Rivera told the media on Monday. "I talked to Jack [Del Rio], and Jack and I were a little bit disappointed because for whatever reason, we played tentative. We didn’t play with the same aggressive nature we had in the first game."
Anyone who witnessed what Washington did versus Philadelphia knows that they were completely (insert the opposite of tentative here). It was absolutely one of the more inspiring performances supporters of the franchise have been treated to in quite some time.
Now, there were some key differences between that afternoon at FedEx Field and what transpired out west, which Rivera pointed out.
Kyler Murray and his unique skill set made it much harder for the defensive line to tee off on the quarterback like they did with Carson Wentz. Murray's offensive line was also healthier than Wentz's, and in DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald, Murray had two top-notch targets to throw to.
"Sometimes that gets to you a little bit," Rivera said, referring to the abilities of Murray, Hopkins and Fitzgerald.
Yes, Murray is one of the sport's more challenging stars to limit, but he won't be the last mega-talent Washington faces this year.
When they go to Cleveland, they'll match up with Odell Beckham Jr., Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. After that is Baltimore, and you already know who's leading Baltimore these days. Then comes the Rams, who run a well-balanced offense with lots of options to choose from.
All of that is to say that Del Rio's side can't afford to be tentative again. They let Murray and Co. control the action, but in their coming contests, they must reassert themselves by holding, if not breaking through, the line of scrimmage, taking smarter angles and not breaking down mentally.
To assist in that last aspect, Rivera and Del Rio intend to re-evaluate what they're calling. But the first two areas, plus many more, will fall on the 11 defenders themselves.
The staff will be able to live with a collection of guys that comes up short as long as that collection is playing with intensity and speed. Those qualities went missing in Washington's first loss of 2020. Expect the emphasis at practice this week to be making sure that they return in time for Sunday's kickoff.