- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2020

As Kyle Allen extended the ball past the goal line for a touchdown in Sunday’s 30-10 loss, Ron Rivera saw the type of decision-making the coach has been looking for from his quarterback.

He watched as Allen read the man coverage and took off once the Rams’ defenders had their backs turned.

Allen recognized an opportunity and took advantage, Rivera noted.

Leaving opportunities on the field was part of the reason Rivera benched Dwayne Haskins a few days earlier.

The quarterback switch didn’t solve much on Sunday — Washington’s 108 total yards were the club’s ninth-lowest mark in franchise history — but Rivera says he saw enough to give Allen, who left the Rams game with an injury, another shot.

The 24-year-old went down before halftime after hurting his arm on a scramble. If he’s healthy come Sunday, though, he will get the starting nod against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, Rivera said.

“I thought he made good decisions,” Rivera said. “He delivered a good ball for the most part. Unfortunately, the next time we got another drive going he got knocked out of the game. But, again, it’s what we’re looking for. He managed it well. We’ll see how things go if he’s healthy and ready to roll Wednesday and see how it goes this week.”

Rivera’s approach to his quarterback situation has been confounding at times. On Sunday, Allen was cleared to return to the game at halftime, but Rivera stuck with veteran Alex Smith, who threw for just 37 yards on 17 attempts and led the offense to just three points. Rivera said he kept Allen on the sideline out of “abundance of caution” — but that explanation only raised further questions.

Rivera defended benching Haskins by emphasizing the team was trying to win now. So, then if Allen is the best option — and again, Rivera said the 24-year-old is starting at New York — then why did Rivera not use his top quarterback if chasing wins is the priority? Washington, too, was only down 10 at the half.

Pressed on the issue Monday, Rivera said he thought Smith was “capable” of leading the offense. He added he didn’t want Allen to take another hit against a ferocious defensive line. The Rams recorded eight sacks, six of which Smith, coming off 17 surgeries for a broken leg, took.

“I don’t know how much different it would’ve been if I had gone back to Kyle,” Rivera said.

Rivera’s focus appears to be on Washington’s next three games — a stretch he views as crucial in determining whether his team can compete for the NFC East. In that span, Washington faces the Giants twice with the Dallas Cowboys — who just lost Dak Prescott for the year to a fractured ankle — in between.

Despite losing four games in a row, Washington (1-4) remains in the thick of the division. The NFC East, after all, still doesn’t have a team with a winning record. The Cowboys (2-3) sit atop the division. According to the NFL Network, that’s just the second time since 1968 that none of the teams in a division have been above .500 through the first five weeks of the season.

The last time that happened? 2013, also in the NFC East.

There are other failings Washington has to correct if it’s serious about making a run. The defense gave up a season-high 429 yards. The offensive line’s eight sacks allowed were Washington’s most since 2011. After four straight losses, Rivera described his players as “disappointed” with the results.

But better quarterback play is a must. Against the Rams, Allen threw for 74 yards and completed 69% of his passes. He averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt, which is actually lower than Haskins’ 6.4. Allen’s average completed pass traveled just 1.2 yards in the air, according to Pro Football Reference.

The numbers aren’t stunning, but Washington isn’t asking Allen to push the pace. They’re asking him to manage the game effectively. Rivera believes he saw that, with Allen leading them to a touchdown drive that gave them a 7-6 lead by the end of the first.

Smith voiced his support for Allen.

“When Kyle was out there, he played great,” Smith said. “I thought he played decisive, quick, and obviously leading us down there on that touchdown drive. I was bummed for him, I was excited for his opportunity. He’s a good kid.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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