Why Washington Head Coach Ron Rivera Went For Two vs. Giants
The New York Giants and Washington Football Team appeared headed to overtime on Sunday after the latter scored a would-be game-tying touchdown in the final minute.
But instead of attempting the extra point to tie the game and send it to overtime, Washington head coach Ron Rivera made a decision that ultimately gave the Giants their first win of the season when he kept his offense on the field for a two-point conversion attempt.
The attempt was unsuccessful, and the Giants (1-5) ended up with the win, 20-19, moving ahead of Washington (1-5) in the NFC East standings thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"The only way to learn how to win is to play to win," Rivera said when asked about his decision. "I told them in the locker room, I said guys 'I play to win,' that's part of my philosophy.
"The mentality has to be we have to do certain things to win football games and if taking a little gamble is part of it then that's what I'm doing ... The players wanted to go for it, but it was my decision."
Washington quarterback Kyle Allen, who led the offense 80 yards in 10 plays to score the final touchdown, put his team in position to win one way or another with a 22-yard touchdown to Cam Sims.
But on the two-point attempt, Allen found himself under some heavy pressure by a Giants defense that had just installed that look on Friday, a look that Giants cornerback James Bradberry said was based on another look the Giants defense has run before.
Under pressure by Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and linebacker Blake Martinez, Allen couldn't manage more than a last-ditch wobbler that fell onto the MetLife Stadium end zone turf.
"It looked like they might have been going Cover-0 at the snap, but they bluffed out," Allen said. "I looked around and didn't have much, and we had good protection, so I wanted to get out and try to make the play.
"I got flushed to the left and got stuck on their guys. I thought I might have a chance to run it in, but I think it was [Giants safety] Jabrill [Peppers] who took a good angle and ran me down.
"It's tough man--you want to give our guys a chance to make a guy on that play but I'm glad we went for it on two, that's our mentality, but I wish we'd gotten it."
Despite playing in an empty home stadium, the Giants still have a home-field advantage to thank for the win. Part of what played into Rivera's decision to go for two was that overtime typically favors the home team.
"I believe over time favors the home team, but when you're on the road, my mentality is if you're down there and you need two yards you have to go for it," Rivera said.
Rivera's thinking of home-field circumstance doesn't quite line up with recent history between the two teams, however.
Had Rivera opted to tie the game and go to overtime, it would have been the second consecutive overtime contest between Washington and the Giants.
Last December, the two teams went into overtime at FedEx Field, but it was the visiting the Giants that came out with the 41-35 road victory.
Rivera wasn't the coach for Washington back then but insisted on avoiding overtime in this one.
Rivera had the support of his players on the decision, even before the team scored the initial touchdown.
When the Washington offense came onto the field with a seven-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, tight end Logan Thomas even anticipated that his offense would go for two if they made it to the endzone.
"I fully expected it," Thomas said. "At the start of the drive, I told the offense 'let's go score and go for two.' I think everybody around the league knows who Ron is and how Ron is so I expected it and I think we expected it too."
The Giants were the dubious beneficiaries of Rivera's decision and their timely defense in Week 6, and it was good enough to earn their first victory of 2020 and head coach Joe Judge's tenure.