The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.
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The Washington Football Team was in a deep hole at the start of its season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. A production drought on offense combined with miscues on defense had the team down, 17-0, with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the second quarter.
But head coach Ron Rivera was calm as his defense trotted out onto the field. They didn't have a 17-point play, he told his coordinators, and he was hearing the right things from his players. He didn't see anyone pointing fingers; instead, they were asking questions like "What can we change?" That gave Rivera confidence they were beginning to understand the team mentality he has been trying to establish.
That's when Fabian Moreau intercepted Carson Wentz's pass to Jalen Reagor and swung the momentum back in Washington's favor. Not only did it begin the team's 27-point onslaught, but it also showed Rivera that his players were willing to fight in order to win.
"I just love the resilience of these young men," Rivera said after the game. "There are a bunch of guys that really worked hard at it. We didn't have a lot to gauge on who we were or who we were going to become, but we got an opportunity to show and the guys did. I am pretty proud of who they are as football team. Very proud of our organization."
The past few years have been tough on the organization, Rivera said. The team has had a losing record the past three years, including last season's 3-13 finish, and been through a coaching change. It reminds Rivera of his time with the Carolina Panthers, who went 2-14 before he became the team's head coach in 2011.
Washington's players have withstood it all, and Rivera said that deserves to be pointed out.
"As I told the players, this game is a very humbling experience. So, to get the opportunity to step up and play today and win a football game means a tremendous amount. Especially based on the things that we have gone through."
Rivera heard players talking to the media in the days leading up to Sunday's game. He knew they were tired of losing, and seeing them smile after the win "really was very gratifying" to him as a coach.
"We've had to deal with some stuff that you normally don't, and it affects people," he said. "But for them to stay focused on what they needed to be and they rallied around each other, that was huge."
Rivera believes there are many players who have not had the chance to express themselves in recent years. Now that they have, he said they have set the tempo for the rest of the year.
"We show that we can play with the best team in the NFC East and that's the Philadelphia Eagles. So, we played well against them, and we were fortunate to come out on top. They are a very well coached team. They have tremendous football players and we know that, but our guys bowed their necks when they had to. We were down 17-0 and they responded and kept fighting and kept to it. That just shows what these guys are capable of."
"The People's Corner" grabbed his first interception: Cornerback Jimmy Moreland has become a fan favorite over the past two seasons. Rivera has said Moreland has a knack for being around the ball, and strong safety Landon Collins believes Moreland is playing with more confidence. He was still searching for his first-career interception, though, and he finally got it during the Eagles' second drive of the third quarter.
"It was a big play in my eyes," Moreland said. "It helped my team to go on and score 17 points. It was a huge weight off of my shoulders getting my first interception and I helped my team, so I was really happy about that."
Rivera wants his players to start getting ready for the Cardinals: Wentz presented a one-dimensional challenge to Washington's defense. He completed 24 passes for 270 yards and two scores, but he did not pose a threat with his legs. That will not be the case against Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who had 91 rushing yards and a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers. Murray was the second-most efficient rushing quarterback, according to Football Outsiders, and Rivera wants his players to be ready for the new challenge.
"He's a heck of a football player and you're going to have to have guys that are fresh," he said. "Guys are going to have to understand that you have to be ready to rotate, you have to be ready to roll and, again, you've got to play high energy against a terrific football player like [Murray]."
Rivera believes the team can win in different ways: Sunday's game was defined by the performance from Washington's defense. The offense managed to score 27 points -- a feat they only accomplished three times in 2019 -- but it could only muster 239 total yards. Rivera will not count out the possibility of the offense "catching fire," though, and does believe that eventually the team can win in other ways besides relying on the defense.
"It's with hard work and these guys understanding what we're asking of them and trusting the process. We have a chance to develop. Who knows? Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but it is a process as I remind the players that we're going through."
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