Ron Rivera focused on making playoffs, not on 'getting revenge' against Panthers

Thanks to the failure of the rest of the NFC East, the Washington Football Team owns a one-game lead in the division race with two to play.

When Washington faces its head coach’s former team this week, leave the talk of revenge at home. This game is about getting a step closer to the postseason.

“We’re focusing in on the playoff run right here,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. … “It becomes a storyline if you guys continue to make it a storyline. I’m not going to. After today, I’m not going to address it.”

In his first season in Washington, Rivera has the Football Team on the precipice of an unlikely appearance in the postseason. Washington is just 6-8 after all, which would put them all but out of postseason consideration entirely in a typical year. But this year is atypical for so many reasons, with one being the NFC East’s ineptitude.

At 6-8, Washington leads the division and got some help Sunday when the Eagles and Giants each fell in their respective games, while the Cowboys inched closer with their second straight victory. Washington lost to Seattle in Week 15, ending its four-game winning streak when a victory would have made things much more comfortable over the final two weeks.

Instead, Washington will need to keep its pedal to the floor in order to maintain its one-game lead over its division rivals. That means there’s no time to allow nostalgia and reflection to creep in — not with the target still in sight.

“The emotion of this game, for me, is this organization,” Rivera said. “This organization right now is more important than my personal situation. And I mean that. We’ve got 53 guys downstairs and a group of coaches that, we want to get into the playoffs. They want to get into the playoffs, and we want to do it for them and for us. So we have to focus in on the game.”

If you’d taken a look at the Football Team a month or so into the season, you’d have little indication that this would be a team owning an inside track to a division crown just before Christmas. Washington was 1-4 after five games, with all of its losses coming by multiple possessions. It wasn’t until the insertion of Alex Smith (out of necessity) that Washington had the look of a team that might go on a run.

Rivera first saw the potential back when his team was 1-4 — primarily because no one else in the putrid NFC East had taken control.

“Week 5 really was where I thought ‘hey, you know what, we have a shot for the playoffs’ because of the way the division is,” Rivera said. “Nobody’s started out 3-1 or 4-0, and I just thought ‘wow, there’s a chance.’

“That’s kind of what we’re working toward and that’s kind of what I’d love to have the focus stay. This is about the organization winning and getting into the playoffs, not Ron Rivera winning and getting revenge. That’s the last thing I want this to be.”

Rivera admitted he owes “the franchise a lot,” recounting his first opportunity to serve as a head coach and his team’s run to Super Bowl 50. But as he stated multiple times Monday, Week 16 isn’t about Rivera facing his former team — it’s about finishing what he thought might first be possible in early October.

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