Momentum can be a crazy thing in the sports world. Even when it unfolds right in front of our eyes, it is still hard to explain. There is no way to scientifically prove it is there yet we know it when we see it. When it rains, it pours. While watching the Redskins playoff game against the Packers, I couldn't help but continually rewind the film and watch the game slip away. The Redskins had plenty of opportunities to change the outcome of the game but they just couldn't hold on to momentum long enough. I ranked the top three examples of lost momentum.
No. 3 - Look out
The Packers had just scored a touchdown to bring the game to 11-7. The Redskins were trying to string a drive together to respond and expand their lead until this pass play. Morgan Moses is at right tackle.
Moses misplays the block, lunges, and the defender goes right by him.
The pass rusher strip sacks Kirk Cousins and the Packers recover the ball. They go down the field and hit a field goal to make the game 11-10.
No. 2 - Safety in numbers?
The Packers had just converted a 4th and 1 (which almost made this list) when they called a counter play back to the strong side. DeAngelo Hall is the key defender on this play. He's the eighth man in the box. His run responsibility is the C-Gap (between the tight end and offensive tackle). The Packers make it look like they are running to the weak side before they cut it back on the counter which makes it Hall's play.
One thing you have to admire about DeAngelo Hall in his transition to safety is his willingness to come up and hit people. But technique is still as important in a game of inches. In the above slide, I diagrammed what SHOULD have happened. You're taught as a defender to always make the play with your outside shoulder. You force everything inside because that is where your help is located. Trent Murphy clearly has contain responsibility on the outside, keeping his outside shoulder free from the offensive tackle. If Hall does the same thing, and keeps his outside shoulder free from the lead blocker (fullback), then Eddie Lacy would have to cut inside (blue line). Will Compton is in the middle and free to make a play.
Instead, Hall torpedoes the fullback to the inside which does a good job eliminating the fullback from the play, but it opens up the outside. Not only does it open up the outside, but Hall and the fullback end up cutting Compton's legs out from under him as well who is the only free defender left in the box. Lacy now has a free run to the sideline.
Instead of a three yard gain and tackle by Will Compton, it turns into a 30 yard gain down inside the five yard line. It's a game of inches. If Hall stays a few inches outside, the play result is drastically different. The Packers scored a touchdown on a run play the next play.
No. 1 - Give an inch
This wasn't a hard decision. This one play changed the landscape of the whole game. The Redskins were up 2-0 after a Preston Smith safety. The Redskins were driving to add to their lead when they called this play. This is an excellent play call. The Redskins called this play expecting man coverage and that is what they got. The objective of this play is to get DeSean Jackson to beat his man across the field (white drag route). From the right side, the Redskins run a hitch and deep post combo to distract any middle-of-the-field defenders who might try and pick Jackson up.
Look how much distance Jackson created from his defender. Easy play. Unfortunately, the deep safety HaHa Clinton-Dix had been spying Jackson the whole play so the "distraction" routes weren't beneficial.
It's a race to the pylon between Clinton-Dix and Jackson. If Jackson puts this ball in his left hand, this is a touchdown. It was called a touchdown on the field but it was reversed. The Redskins were stopped and forced to kick a field goal. Instead of a 9-0 lead, it was a 5-0 lead. Hardly enough to take any wind out of the Packers' sails. Game of inches.
The 2016 Washington Redskins will be a different team than the 2015 Washington Redskins but one thing every team has to deal with is momentum. Facing adversity is the best way to build a winning team. A team has to be able to take momentum back. Hopefully, the Redskins can learn a lesson or two from this film and apply it in 2016.
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr
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