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Turning Point—The Goal Line Stand

Oct 22, 2008, 7:45 AM EDT

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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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