Washington rallies as Rivera victorious in debut

  • Covered the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and other media outlets since 1994
  • Authored or co-authored three books on the Redskins and one on the Cleveland Browns

LANDOVER, Md. — After an offseason of turnover, chaos and negative attention, the Washington Football Team delivered what new coach Ron Rivera and the organization needed most: A comeback win.

After falling behind 17-0 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener Sunday, Washington rallied for a 27-17 victory behind a dominant defensive line. Washington recorded eight sacks of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Washington snapped a six-game losing streak vs. the Eagles.

It was Rivera’s first game coaching Washington after nine years in Carolina. He’s had to deal with not only a pandemic and social justice issues, but also a name change, stories of sexual harassment in the organization from previous years and his own cancer diagnosis. Rivera missed practice on Tuesday for his first chemotherapy and proton treatment. He needs to have five treatments a day for seven weeks.

But through it all Rivera had said he just wanted Washington to play good football, knowing it would take time to rebuild a team that went 3-13 a year ago. He also called this game a measuring stick. If that’s the case, Washington measured out quite well — at least for the final two quarters.

Philadelphia scored on three of its first four possessions as Washington struggled in all facets. Their defense allowed big plays, jumped offsides at inopportune times and made life easy for the Eagles’ offense.

Rivera had preached all summer to his players about the mindset needed to play a strong game for four quarters. He chastised them — loudly — after bad practices and praised them for any improvement.

Still, the turnaround Sunday seemed unlikely when Philadelphia took over with 1 minute, 44 seconds remaining in the first half and owning the three-score lead. But the turnaround began when corner Fabian Moreau intercepted Wentz on the next play. It led to a Dwayne Haskins to Logan Thomas touchdown pass.

From that point forward, Washington dominated. The Eagles gained 175 yards in the first half; they finished with 265 for the game.

Washington running back Peyton Barber broke a 17-17 tie with a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. It came two plays after Rivera eschewed an easy field goal by going for it on fourth-and-1. Barber picked it up — barely. But by that point Washington was playing with confidence and Rivera, who earned the nickname Riverboat Ron in Carolina for his aggressive ways, capitalized on the momentum.

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