Washington coach Ron Rivera was nicknamed “Riverboat Ron” during his early days as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers for his willingness to take risks.
In his first season with Washington, we saw it when his team cut the Giants lead to one point with less than a minute remaining in an October battle. Instead of playing it safe and going for overtime, Rivera went for a two-point conversion — and the win. The play failed, but Rivera wasn’t afraid to believe in his team.
In Sunday’s Week 1 loss to the Chargers, Rivera was again faced with a tough decision. Washington faced a 4th-and-7 from the Chargers 40-yard line. In most cases, you do punt, especially when your defense is a strength. But Washington’s defense was anything but a strength on Sunday, allowing the Chargers to convert on 14 of 19 third downs.
So, Rivera punted it, choosing to play the field-position game and hope this defense could make a play.
Unfortunately, the defense failed again, and it left many questioning Rivera’s decision to punt.
WSH decided to punt to LAC from the LAC 45 on 4th & 12 with 6:50 remaining in the 4th while losing 16 to 20.
With a Surrender Index of 19.03, this punt ranks at the 98th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2021 season, and the 96th percentile of all punts since 1999.
— Surrender Index (@surrender_index) September 12, 2021
The ball was originally at the 40-yard line when safety Troy Apke was called for a procedural penalty, pushing it back five yards and making it 4th-and-12.
After the game, Rivera discussed his decision.
“Fourth-and-7, we thought we had an opportunity to get them pinned,” Rivera said, per Ethan Cadeaux of NBC Sports Washington.
Rivera isn’t wrong. Again, in most cases, you’d trust your defense with that much time in the game and the score so close. However, Washington’s defense was tired and worn down on Sunday.
“We ended up with a third-and-16. You’d like to think the defense could’ve converted that,” Rivera said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t. We’ll have to take a look at that. But if we had converted it, it might’ve been a different story.”
Again, Rivera is right. The defense must get off the field. Washington doesn’t have long to correct its third-down defense as the Giants will be in town on Thursday night.