The regular season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its second season under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
Ron Rivera had a simple yet profound message for his players less than 24 hours after their heart racing 30-29 win over the New York Giants: "We won a football game, but we can be better."
"And I really do believe that all of our guys will look at it that way," Rivera said Friday afternoon. "That's what we're going to take from it."
Putting aside the Thursday night heroics from Taylor Heinicke, The Washington Football Team's first win of the season was ugly. It was a mixed bag of noteworthy individual efforts and blunders that nearly swiped the victory from their grasp. The good news: with a little work, all its botches are correctable.
"Those are all things that we can correct and be better at. That's the thing that gives us pause for optimism is that those are correctable things."
Washington's failures to stop the Giants' read option plays, which allowed Daniel Jones to rush for 95 yards on nine carries, were a primary cause of frustration. The players knew it was coming; Jones had burned them on such plays in the past. They still couldn't stop Jones from slipping into the secondary.
It's not a question of giving enough effort. The players were trying to make a stop. The rushes came from a lack of discipline, and the head coach assured reporters that it "will be pointed out and we're gonna work to correct it."
"You've got to trust that's what's going to happen," Rivera said. "And really that's part of the defense. That's the part that we've got to be able to get them to understand."
Other plays that popped up, while not as impactful, caused just as many headaches. The defensive line focusing too much on shooting gaps allowed Saquon Barkley to burst down the sideline for a 41-yard gain. Heinicke essentially sacked himself for a 16-yard loss on the first drive. Had it not been for Darius Slayton's drop in the end zone, a miscommunication would have resulted in the Giants taking a double-digit lead.
There were smaller moments, such as inopportune penalties, that kept the Giants on the field or killed offensive momentum. If Washington wants to keep progressing, Rivera made it clear those mistakes cannot happen.
"We can't jump our gaps, we can't miscommunicate, and we can't create penalties," Rivera said. "So again, it falls back on us. We've gotta be better."
On a lighter note, the flaws were not all Rivera saw on film. There was plenty of outstanding individual play from stars like Jonathan Allen, who had a pair of sacks with six tackles, and Terry McLaurin with his 11 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. He was happy with how the offensive line protected Heinicke, and the team was resilient in the final five minutes.
"I love the way that they play hard. They play with passion," Rivera said. "That's what those guys did last year down the stretch, and it's carrying over."
Washington will face a gauntlet over the next month with quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers on the schedule. It will need to improve and do so quickly if it wants to be competitive.
Fortunately, there's plenty of teachable moments to learn from.
"I think that's one of the things that we're starting to see is that we're starting to grow a little bit," Rivera said, "there is a difference in terms of the way we played versus the Chargers to this week."