LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Ron Rivera didn't second-guess going for 2 in the final minute and Washington losing to the New York Giants as a result.
Now, his team gets a quick second chance against the Giants on Sunday to prove “Riverboat Ron" right for his rationale of teaching players what it takes to win. Washington is rested coming off its bye, confident after routing rival Dallas, and can keep pace in the dreadful NFC East by making good on another opportunity against New York.
“We’re going to have some really good periods and some real low periods, but it’s all part of growing,” Rivera said Thursday. “Each thing that we do, I believe it’s just another part of growing, and so I’m pretty excited about where we are right now.”
A few weeks after a missed opportunity in a 20-19 loss at New York, Washington (2-5) can still move within a half-game of idle, first-place Philadelphia by evening the season series with the Giants. That would make Rivera's bunch 3-1 in the division and only increase the confidence growing around the young team.
One reason for that is Washington's defense that's ranked fourth in the NFL and first against the pass. A pass rush led by 2019 first-rounder Montez Sweat and 2020 No. 2 pick Chase Young combines with a rebuilt secondary combined to make these strides.
“We’ve worked hard at becoming sound in what we’re doing in the back end and limiting the number of explosive plays that we allow,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “I like the way our group has worked at it. I think we’re an improving group, but we have a lot of work to do yet as we get into the second half of the year.”
The loss of former Giants safety Landon Collins to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury will make it even more of a challenge. Rookie Kamren Curl, a seventh-round pick, is expected to start against the Giants (1-7), who hope they also benefit from playing Washington so quickly after their first matchup.
“We just have to get a good idea of their personnel,” defensive back Logan Ryan said. “We got a jump on that from playing them. We know (receiver Terry McLaurin) is really good. We know their running backs are really good. We know their tight end had a pretty good day, so we have to address that."
TALE OF TWO QUARTERBACKS
New York made Daniel Jones the second quarterback taken in the 2019 draft at No. 6, and Washington followed by selecting Dwayne Haskins at No. 15. Jones and Haskins have had each had a very different second pro season under a new coach.
Jones is enduring some growing pains. He threw two costly interceptions in a loss Monday night to Tampa Bay to get to nine this season, and hasn't seemed to learn how to get rid of the ball under pressure 20 starts into his NFL career.
“I need to do a better job understanding when the play is over, when it’s not there and when the best outcome is to throw it away, or in some cases to take a sack,” Jones said. “In certain situations like that, I can certainly improve. I’ll continue to work on it.”
Haskins isn't getting to work through struggles in games after Rivera benched and demoted the Ohio State product to third-string four games into the season. Kyle Allen starts, Alex Smith backs up and Haskins only gets limited practice snaps after going from prospective franchise QB to inactive on game days.
“I think Dwayne is understanding," Rivera said. "He and I have talked, and I said, ‘Dwayne, this really is about your development and growth.’ He’s a young, young quarterback.”
Wide receiver Golden Tate didn't travel with the Giants on Saturday after creating a stir late in the Buccaneers game when he walked up to a television camera after catching a touchdown pass and yelled “throw me the ball.”
The following day, Tate’s wife, Elise, went on social media to complain that her husband was being under-utilized despite being open. Coach Joe Judge had a long talk with Tate this week and said the team was handling the situation internally.
“He’s made a lot of plays over these last couple of years, and I certainly have a lot of trust in him as a player,” Jones said. “I certainly value our relationship, respect him. My job is to distribute the ball to our playmakers and let them make plays. He’s a great player and we’ll keep trying to get him the ball.”
The team said Tate's absence was not injury-related.
FANS AT FEDEX
This will be Washington's first home game this season with fans in attendance — 3,000 at most — after limiting to friends and family against the Rams and Cowboys because of the pandemic. Rivera is looking forward to hearing what 3,000 fans sound like, and his players know from a few road games that even limited spectators can make a difference.
“It’s not like the noise is affecting your play or anything, but you can feel the emotions of the game a little bit more,” Allen said. "You can feel the momentum a little bit more. You can ride that a little bit more."
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed.
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