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Turning Point—The Goal Line Stand

Turning Point—The Goal Line Stand

The Washington Redskins scored on a three-play drive to take a 14-3 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 12:28 left to play. Derrick Anderson started to heat up and nine plays and 4:10 later the Browns had a second and 10 at the Washington 19. The Redskins brought the heat but Cleveland had the right play called, a screen to power running back Jamal Lewis. Chris Horton just tripped up Lewis at the one with 8:01 left to play.

What followed was the stuff that legends are made of. The ensuing goal line stands saved the game for the Redskins, even though the Browns ultimately scored. Here is that anatomy of that sequence of plays:

1-1-WAS 1 (7:22) 31-J.Lewis right guard to WAS 1 for no gain (59-L.Fletcher, 64-K.Golston).

It's an I-formation power run and Anderson hands off to Lewis. Fletcher is lined up a few yards deep in the end zone and when he reads the play he comes flying in—literally, as he leapt at the goal line and made contact with Lewis about a yard behind the line of scrimmage. Lewis had no chance to get his momentum going and he easily went down for a loss of about a half a yard.

2-1-WAS 1 (6:41) 3-D.Anderson pass short right to 41-C.Ali to WAS 3 for -2 yards (59-L.Fletcher).

From an I formation again, the Browns put Joshua Cribbs in motion from right to left. LaRon Landry follows cribs and there is nobody on the right side of the line. Charles Ali tries to sneak out onto the right side after a play action fake. Fletcher, lined up about five yards deep in the end zone, immediately recognized the play and shot to Ali, bringing down the stunned fullback with a great open-field tackle.

3-3-WAS 3 (5:58) (Shotgun) 3-D.Anderson pass incomplete short right to 29-J.Wright (55-J.Taylor).

From shotgun, Anderson again tries to dump one off to a back. This time Braylon Edwards is split out to the right and at the snap he runs a slant in an attempt to clear out the right side. But Fletcher is having none of it and neither is Carlos Rogers, who stays in his zone a few yards deep in the end zone. As Anderson's pass floats towards Jason Wright, Rogers comes up from behind and Fletcher flies in from the inside. Wright has no chance.

4-3-WAS 3 (5:53) (Shotgun) 3-D.Anderson pass incomplete short middle to 17-B.Edwards (92-D.Evans).

By now, more than six and a half minutes have come off the clock since the Browns started their drive and a little over two minutes have ticked off since the Browns got a first and goal at the one. Edwards runs a short post to the back of the end zone and it looked like an accurate pass with plenty of mustard on it might have resulted in a touchdown. But Demetric Evans, who was a bit slow getting off the ball, engaged the guard, and timed his leap perfectly to knock Anderson's pass to the ground.

Should Romeo Crennel have kicked a field goal to make it a one-score game, as Solomon Wilcots and Ian Eagle said during the telecast and others have said since? It's a cogent argument but I think Crennel made the right call. They hadn't been that close all day and he didn't know if they would get that close again. I think that you go for the TD when you're close since you can get the three from much further away.

1-10-WAS 3 (5:47) 26-C.Portis right end to WAS 27 for 24 yards (24-E.Wright). FUMBLES (24-E.Wright), RECOVERED by CLE-21-B.Pool at WAS 29. 21-B.Pool pushed ob at WAS 29 for no gain (82-A.Randle El). Washington challenged the loose ball recovery ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #2 at 05:36.)

Portis said that he "lost focus" on ball protection, thinking that he might be able to break it all the way. AS Portis' arms were churning, Eric Wright knocked the ball out and Cleveland's Pool finally got the handle on the ball just before Antwaan Randle El knocked him out of bounds. Anderson passes to Edwards and Kellen Winslow got the Browns down to the one again. Rocky McIntosh made a good hit to blunt Winslow's momentum as the tight end appeared to be lunging into the end zone. It was second and goal with 4:49 to go.

2-1-WAS 1 (4:15) 31-J.Lewis up the middle to WAS 1 for no gain (64-K.Golston, 52-R.McIntosh).

By the time the ball is snapped, more than eight minutes has gone by since the Browns started their original drive after the Redskins had made it 14-3 and almost four minutes had gone by since the initial first and goal at the one. Kedric Golston shoots the gap and pulls back Lewis as the back was trying to find some room to operate after the Redskins had moved the line of scrimmage back a half a yard with a strong charge.

3-1-WAS 1 (3:34) 31-J.Lewis left end to WAS 1 for no gain (54-H.Blades, 22-C.Rogers).

A pitch to Lewis, a play that was effective on a few occasions during the game, has no chance. Rogers immediately recognizes it—I'm not sure why Edwards, on whom Rogers was lined up tight, didn't try to blog him—and charges up to trip up Lewis. Lewis may have been able to stumble in after that but Blades finishes off the play.

4-1-WAS 1 (2:49) 3-D.Anderson pass short middle to 16-J.Cribbs for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.

From the power I formation, the Browns weren't about to test the run defense again. Cribbs was lined up as a wing on the left side and he took a couple of steps to the inside just before the snap. He went behind the line of scrimmage and was wide open with McIntosh trailing by a few steps. Anders got some heat from Evans but with so much room his toss easily found its way into Cribbs' hands.

The touchdown was scored with 2:44 left to play. That was about 10 minutes after the first drive started and more than five minutes after the original first and goal. The time that it took the Browns to score was a critical element that allowed the Redskins to hang on for the win.

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Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Here is my weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL:

Before we get going, let’s line up the NFL wild card contenders by current seed and their remaining four games.

Giants (8-4): Cowboys, Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (7-5): Saints, @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (6-5-1): @Eagles, Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (6-6): @Jaguars, Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (6-6): Seahawks, @Bears, Vikings, @Lions
Cardinals (5-6-1): @Dolphins, Saints, @Seahawks, @Rams
Saints (5-7): @Bucs, @Cardinals, Bucs, @Falcons
Eagles (5-7): Redskins, @Ravens, Giants, Cowboys

—The Redskins can knock the Eagles out of any practical chance of making the playoffs with a win on Sunday. An Eagles loss would mean they could finish no better than 8-8 and that is highly unlikely to get it done this year.

—For a second straight week, Redskins fans need to root for Cowboys to win. Or for their opponent to lose. Some wanted to make that distinction last week when Cowboys played the Vikings and the optimal outcome for the Redskins was a Dallas win. However you want to look at it, a Giants loss to Dallas could move the Redskins to within a half game of the No. 5 seed.

MORE REDSKINS: Assessing the four remainig opponents

—There should be no hesitation about pulling for the Saints to beat the Bucs. A Washington win and a Tampa Bay loss puts the Redskins back into playoff position with the No. 6 seed. The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites at home. They are the hot team, coming in with four straight wins while New Orleans has lost three of four. The Saints are on the fringe of contention but Redskins fans need to pull for the teams ahead of Washington in the standings.

—The Redskins can’t look for much help when it comes to the team immediately behind them in the standings. The Vikings visit the Jaguars, who are locked in to yet another season of double-digit losses. You might be tempted to look for the home underdog to put up a fight and they might. But Blake Bortles has thrown three pick sixes this year and the Vikings have returned two interceptions for TDs this year. Look for such a play to be decisive and for the Vikings to remain tight with Washington in the standings.

—The other team a half game behind the Redskins is the Packers. They host the Seahawks in what could be very snowy conditions in Green Bay. Seattle is a three-point favorite but if the weather gets crazy anything could happen. Redskins fans need to root for the Seahawks, for obvious reasons.

RELATED: Three Redskins out on Sunday, Reed questionable

—The Cardinals creeped back into contention with their win over the Redskins. That win and the fact that they have a tie on their ledger means that the Redskins do not want to finish with the same record as Arizona. This is one of the few situations where a tiebreaker would matter. It’s an easy call to pull for them to fall to the AFC Dolphins.

—I went 2-1 last week, winning with the Patriots over the Rams and the Seahawks over the Panthers. I have four NFL picks this week, all of them road favorites: the Redskins -1 on the road over the Eagles, the Cowboys -3 at the Giants, the Falcons -6 over the Rams in L.A., and the Seahawks giving three to the Packers.

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 10, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 14; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 22

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Around Redskins Park

The Redskins have four games remaining on their schedule. Three wins would give them a record of 9-6-1 and a very good shot at the playoffs. Four will almost certainly get them a ticket to keep playing; two wins or fewer will have them needing a whole lot of help to make the postseason

Let’s take a look at the Redskins’ remaining four opponents and revisit the confidence level on the Redskins’ chances of beating each one of them. (I first did this exercise a few weeks ago).

@Eagles, 5-7, weighted DVOA via Football Outsiders, 15.3% (ranked 5th)
The Eagles looked like playoff contenders for about half of the season but they have taken a tumble back to earth, losing five of their last six. Right now the Redskins are the better team, although their long injury list is an area for concern. The Eagles appear to be in some degree of disarray after their coach accused some unnamed players of giving less than full effort. Confidence that the Redskins will win: High

Panthers, 4-8, DVOA -7.5% (25th)
They won’t be able to defend their NFC championship much longer. By the time this game comes around they could be either eliminated or on the verge of being mathematically out of the playoffs. Their problems are numerous including big issues at cornerback (too bad they didn’t have a guy who could have helped franchise tagged) and an offensive line that has been injury-wracked all year. Still, Cam Newton is a scary quarterback and he still has tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr. If the Redskins get into a shootout they could be in trouble. Confidence: Moderately high

@Bears, 3-9, DVOA -3.0%, (24th)
Matt Barkley is the Bears’ third starting QB this season and in most statistical categories he’s the worst of the three. The Bears have been hit by injuries as hard as any NFL team with multiple starters on injured reserve. They probably would have struggled even with those players healthy; without them they are one of the five worst teams in the NFL. The one thing to beware of is the late December weather in Chicago, which could randomize the outcome to an extent. Confidence: Very high

Giants, 8-4, DVOA 5.0%, (12th)
The new players on the Giants’ defense were just starting to gel when end Jason Pierre-Paul’s season ended after sports hernia surgery. Their defense, with the No. 7 DVOA (-9.6%), won’t collapse but it won’t be as strong. Eli Manning’s stats are down a tick from last year but as long as he has Odell Beckham to throw to the Giants won’t be totally stymied on offense. This one is hard to get a good feel for this far out, not knowing what might be at stake for either team. Confidence: Moderate

For comparison purposes, the 6-5-1 Redskins have a DVOA of 9.8% (10th)

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