Ron Rivera: Tale of two halves for Washington vs. Chiefs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Football Team could not have entered the halftime break on Sunday with many complaints.
Washington, a touchdown underdog to Kansas City, entered the FedEx Field locker room after the game’s first 30 minutes with a three-point lead over the Chiefs. Washington’s defense forced three turnovers over the first two quarters, while the offense was able to produce three scoring drives.
But if the first 30 minutes went best-case scenario for Washington, the final 30 went the exact opposite direction. Kansas City blanked Washington, 21-0, over the final two quarters, cruising to a 31-13 victory that was more lopsided than the final scoreline shows.
“The message to the guys, more than anything else, is that we’ve got to handle adversity,” head coach Ron Rivera said postgame. “We’ve got to play two halves of football. We played a good first half. We didn’t play a good enough second half to give ourselves a chance to win. We’ve got to be able to handle the mistakes, correct the mistakes and keep going forward.”
At first, things looked promising for Washington to begin the second half. The Chiefs received the ball to begin the third quarter, but Washington’s defense was able to force a punt after allowing just one first down.
On the ensuing drive, Washington’s offense began to move the ball before halting just outside the red zone. Washington lost four yards on a crucial third-and-2, forcing the field goal kick unit out — only for Dustin Hopkins to miss a 42-yard attempt wide left. Then, 10 plays and 68 yards later, the Chiefs retook the lead on a Tyreek Hill touchdown.
“We didn’t handle adversity in the second half the way we needed to,” Rivera said. “We missed a kick. We had the chance to bow our necks and we jumped offsides. We can’t do those things. This game is too finite. When you give teams opportunities, especially really good teams, they’ll take advantage of it.”
“I think it was a little bit of a snowball effect. One bad thing led to another,” Rivera later added.
After that 10-point swing, Washington had little fight left. The offense looked out of sync the remainder of the game, as the team’s final three offensive drives resulted in two punts and a Taylor Heinicke interception.
Kansas City’s defense entered the game as the NFL’s worst, allowing opponents to score 32.6 points per contest. That same unit held Washington without a point over the final 30 minutes of the game.
“We just couldn’t get the ball rolling in the second half. Whether it was penalties, getting to the sticks, the defense making a good play or a dropped ball or a bad throw, we just couldn’t put it together,” Heinicke said.
“We need to score points. It’s frustrating. We just didn’t execute well. It’s tough,” the quarterback continued.
On the other side of the football, Washington’s defense allowed the Chiefs to amass over 500 total yards. Patrick Mahomes had his way the entire second half as Kansas City scored touchdowns on three straight possessions to put the game out of reach.
“What changed in the second half was the quarterback’s ability to get outside the pocket and make something happen,” Rivera said. “He scrambled a few times, a couple times he scrambled and threw the ball downfield and made something out of it. We were able to contain him and keep him bottled up in the first half. In the second half, he, unfortunately, got out.”
When the 2021 schedule came out in May, Rivera knew the first stretch of the season would be tough with matchups against the Chargers, Bills, Saints and Chiefs.
Yet, even though Washington did lose all four of those contests, Rivera knows his team missed out on some opportunities for wins.
“We did lose to four good teams, but we also could have beaten a couple of them,” Rivera said. “That’s the hard thing to swallow.”