Ron Rivera was brought to Washington to completely change the culture and the on-field results.
But after falling behind 17-0 in the first half, due to defensive breakdowns in the secondary and a sputtering offense, despite a slightly different look for the newly named Washington Football Team, everything felt very familiar in D.C.
The win probability for the Philadelphia Eagles, visiting a fan-less FedEx Field, reached as high as 97.3 percent in the second quarter. The more things change the more they stay the same? Well, not this time.
But Rivera has promised changes and the fruits of his labor came into full view when Washington rattled off 27 unanswered points to secure a culture-defining victory in Week 1.
After the game, Rivera told his team the turnaround made him realize how good his team could be. “Trust me, fellas, it’s in here. It really is,” he said. “It tells me you can really play. But don’t get a big f--- head because next week we have another test.”
But the comeback wasn’t just of Rivera’s doing. Dwayne Haskins played a big role on the field and off, first by tossing a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Logan Thomas in the final minute of the second quarter.
And at halftime, as Rivera underwent a planned IV treatment as part of his on-going battle with cancer, it was Haskins, the second-year quarterback and team captain who gave the halftime team talk.
And Haskins’ talk had an immediate effect with the defense forcing Carson Wentz into his second interception of the day, this time to Jimmy Moreland, and a big return set up the Washington offense in prime position.
Washington made it 14 points off turnovers with a one-yard TD plunge from RB Peyton Barber and suddenly Washington was back from the abyss. But the home side’s win probability was still only at 27 percent.
The defense set up the offense again with a short field after forcing a turnover on downs late in the 3rd quarter, which led to a game-tying field goal from Dustin Hopkins.
The Rivera Impact had been felt, the 17-point deficit was erased, but he wasn’t done yet.
With Washington faced a fourth-and-1 from the Philadelphia four-yard line, but rather than kick the go-ahead field goal, Rivera made the right analytics call: Go for it. And Barber's conversion set up a 1st-and-goal.
Barber punched it into the end zone two plays later and the comeback was complete.
Rivera was given the game ball by his team and the team’s owner after going to 1-0 in Washington.
“This is just the beginning of who we can become,” Rivera told his team postgame.