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.
The trope that games are won and lost by a few key moments gets thrown around a lot, but in the case of the Washington Football Team's 33-22 loss to the New Orleans Saints, that was actually true.
"This is probably the first time that I can really say that this was a matter of four or five plays on both sides of the ball," Ron Rivera told reporters during his Monday press conference. "If we do certain things and eliminate a couple of things here, you'll see that we have a chance."
Rivera was adamant there is no reason to start from scratch after watching the film from Sunday's game. The miscues were crippling, but that doesn't completely eliminate the positives from the rest of the game. However, it is a reminder of how the minor details matter on every play.
"The little things that are really important that make a bigger difference," Rivera said, "and we've got to pay attention to those and make sure we're executing them to the best of our abilities."
This is a point Rivera has brought up before when talking about the struggles on the defensive line earlier this season. Players were fitting in the same gap against the Buffalo Bills, and it resulted in quarterback Josh Allen getting extra time in the pocket.
In fairness, the defensive line has performed better in the passing game. It recorded two sacks on Jameis Winston and generated 11 quarterback hits. But in the second quarter of Sunday's game, when Washington held a 13-7 lead, the defense missed a crease on the right side of the play that Alvin Kamara quickly exploited for a 23-yard touchdown run.
"We weren't where we needed to be," Rivera said. "As I've said, if you're not where you need to be, they're going to find you. And that's the truth."
The secondary wasn't perfect, but there were moments that showed how much progress it had made, particularly on third down. The Saints were 4-of-11 on their conversions, and four of those attempts failed because the group disrupted Winston's connection with his receivers.
While Winston only completed 50% of his passes, two of Winston's 15 completions, which accounted for 43% of his 278 yards, resulted in two touchdowns for the Saints. The most frustrating part was the both plays were avoidable. Winston's 72-yard pass to Deonte Harris in the first quarter, for example, happened because there was supposed to be a man preventing a big play.
The Washington Football Team returned to FedExField for a Week 5 matchup against the New Orleans Saints and was defeated in a 33-22 loss. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
So what should Rivera do? Making panic moves and mixing things up is not the answer, he said. That will only perpetuate the problem. Instead, the focus has to be for Washington to teach and build.
"You just can't pull guys and bring guys in without consequences and doing certain things affects certain other parts of the team and what you're trying to do," Rivera said. "So you stick with what you got, continue to teach, train and coach. And keep going, keep at it. And eventually you will see the improvement."
The good news is that there is a foundation to build on. Rivera does believe some strides were made on Sunday, but the team couldn't execute when it needed to the most. And while Washington can't take those moments back, it can learn from them.
"There were a couple of plays as I said that we really got caught," Rivera said. "And again, we see the example of what happens when we're not doing it the way we need to. That's probably the thing that we've got to understand."