5 huge disappointments from Commanders loss vs. the 49ers in Week 17

Things went better than expected, but the result was the same.

Christian Holmes
Christian Holmes / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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Ron Rivera's lack of conviction

During the third game he coached for the now-Washington Commanders, Ron Rivera made a decision late in the fourth quarter that I found very odd. His team was being beaten by the Cleveland Browns, and the opposition was looking to build on the lead. But the game was not out of reach.

Still, Rivera failed to call time-outs to preserve the clock in hopes of a miracle comeback. It is a decision that I don’t think any other coach in the NFL would have made. It was a decision that some writers (me) criticized.

On Sunday, which is likely to be one of his final games as coach of the Commanders, he did the same thing at the end of the first half. He could have used timeouts to preserve the clock. The game was tied at ten, and the San Francisco 49ers were driving toward what would eventually be a field goal.

Rivera chose to let the clock run down. What makes it especially confusing is that he did call a timeout with about 40 seconds left in the half, just after the Commanders had made a good stop on a goal-line run by Christian McCaffery. By that point, it was too late for the timeout to mean anything. As could be easily predicted, Washington eventually got the ball back with virtually no time on the clock and two useless timeouts in their pocket.

I don’t pretend to be a clock management expert. I just know that for someone with the nickname Riverboat Ron, Rivera has not been especially aggressive in his game management throughout his time in Washington.

Such caution may be wiser than the recklessness of Brandon Staley, whose time with the Los Angeles Chargers was marked by knee-jerk, at times, brain-dead, aggressiveness. I just worry that Rivera has been too timid, and that has bred a culture of losing.