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Ron the Merciful?

Is it possible to be too nice a guy?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long time since the Washington Football Team has been in the position to run up the score against an opponent. After all, in 2019, the team only won three games, and those by an average of 4 points per win (only one win exceeded 3 points). During the WFT’s resounding 27-17 win over the Eagles, however, the team, and Ron Rivera, had the opportunity to pour on more points, but, instead, forcefully applied the brakes.

With 3:15 left in the game, Carson Wentz was sacked by Daron Payne and Chase Young, inducing a fumble that was picked up by Ryan Kerrigan at the Eagle’s 22-yard line.

At this point, by most conventional thinking, the game was well in hand, up by two scores with around 3 minutes left. Coach Rivera went ultraconservative, with three Peyton Barber runs and a defensive penalty ultimately yielding a WFT first down. Two more short Barber runs and two Dwayne Haskins kneel downs, first at the Philly 4 and then at the Philly 11 yard line, took the clock down to 27 seconds. During this possession, the Eagles decided to burn two more timeouts to preserve the clock, in addition to getting the benefit of the clock stoppage at the 2-minute warning.

Rather than let the clock run down on their possession, the Eagles threw the ball three times, completing two passes against a WFT that had already secured victory and was only on the field because it refused to run up the score.

Recognizing, particularly given the WFT’s earlier red zone success, that the WFT could relatively easily have hung 34 points on their weakened opponent, Coach Rivera appeared to have taken mercy on his quarry.

At the time, I’ll confess, I was slightly annoyed by Rivera’s journey along the high road, and even more so by Doug Pederson’s classless attempt to “comeback” in the final minute of a game in which his opponent had allowed him to save a bit of face.

It only took a few hours, however, for me to appreciate what we have in Rivera. In one of the 4 o’clock games, the New Orleans Saints took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game generally went back and forth, but after jumping out to an early 7-0 lead, the Buccaneers were pretty ably handled by the Saints. With 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Saints were up 34 to 17 and had the game well in hand. The Buccaneers did score one more touchdown, bringing the score to 34-23 with 2:41 left on the clock.

Rather than run the clock out with a two score lead, however, Saints’ coach Sean Payton decided to pull out all the stops and leave his stars in the game to do so. On second and 6, Payton called a trick play where Drew Brees passed back to Taysom Hill, who threw a 38-yard pass downfield to Alvin Kamara, who nearly had his leg ripped off on a completely meaningless ego exercise by Payton. Thankfully, Kamara was uninjured.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Michael Thomas. On one of Latavius Murray’s runs in the final minutes of the game, he rolled up on Thomas’ leg, causing the dreaded “high ankle sprain.” Thomas insists he’s fine, but we’ll get a chance to see what sort of shape he’s in next week on Monday Night Football when the Saints take on the Raiders. To put a bow on the story, Payton tried to run Kamara into the endzone on 4th and short (with 27 seconds left), and failed to break the goal line.

Updated: Michael Thomas is now expected to miss “several weeks.”

In retrospect, given the choice between a Rivera and a Payton, not necessarily as play-callers, but as leaders of men, I’ll take the Rivera every time. Stay classy, Riverboat Ron; we’re elated to have you aboard.


Did Rivera do the right thing by not running up the score on the Eagles?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Yes, he’s clearly an honorable man.
    (848 votes)
  • 23%
    No, he should have ground them into the earth.
    (254 votes)
1102 votes total Vote Now