Rivera on decision to punt late in fourth quarter vs. Chargers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
With just under seven minutes remaining in Sunday's Week 1 contest, the Washington Football Team had the ball at the Los Angeles Chargers' 40-yard line, faced with a fourth-and-7 trailing by four. Head coach Ron Rivera had a decision to make: go for it, or punt.
Rivera, who earned the nickname 'Riverboat Ron' earlier in his career for his risk-tolerance approach, opted to go the safer route and punt. The decision backfired, as Los Angeles was able to put together a 15-play drive to ice the game preventing Washington from ever getting the ball back.
After the game, Washington's head coach was asked about the choice and explained why he chose to send his punt team on the field at that time.
"Fourth-and-7, we thought we had an opportunity to get them pinned," Rivera said.
At first, it looked like Rivera's decision was going to pay off. After an illegal use of hands penalty was called on Chargers offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, Los Angeles was faced with a third-and-16 from its own 12-yard line.
That was no issue for Justin Herbert and the Chargers' offense, though. The second-year signal-caller found an open Keenan Allen -- a theme that Washington's defense became far too familiar with on Sunday -- for a 17-yard gain to extend the drive.
"We ended up with a third-and-. You'd like to think [the defense] could've converted that," Rivera said. "Unfortunately, we didn't. We'll have to take a look at that. But if we had converted it, it might've been a different story."
That long third-down conversion was the first of four that the Chargers would complete on the game-sealing drive. All four of them came on Herbert passes, with Allen on the receiving end of two of them, including the final one that would ice the game with under two minutes remaining.
In all, Los Angeles would convert a whopping 74 percent (14-of-19) of its third down attempts. The 14 third-down conversions allowed by Washington were tied for the most in franchise history, dating all the way back to 1994.
Rivera insisted that his decision to punt was not a reflection of trusting his defense more than his offense, rather what he felt was the in the best interest of his team at that time.
"I was feeling pretty good about the way we were rolling for a while," Rivera said. "It was just unfortunate, we had an opportunity, third and real long and we didn't take care of business."