Last night, the Redskins lost a 27-10 second-half lead and lost their first game of the season, 30-27 in overtime to the Houston Texans. After going back over the game and looking at video, I've identified 13 key plays that changed the course of the game from a sure Redskins win to an epic collapse.
A full list of the plays, with the game situation, video (where available), and explanations of their significance, is after the jump.
1. Situation: Texans face third-and-15, own 44, 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Score: Washington 27, Houston 10. Play: Foster rumbles for 50 yards
Facing a third-and-15 at their own 44 with the crowd on their feet, the Texans appeared to be one stymied possession away from giving up the ghost of this game. Instead, the Redskins overpursued on a pass rush, and Arian Foster, who'd been quiet up to that point, hustled past Phillip Buchanon and Lorenzo Alexander and scampered for 50 yards to the Washington 6. The perfectly set-up screen pass was the Texans' longest play of the game, a play Brian Orakpo later called "a huge turning point," and quieted FedEx Field for the first time all afternoon.
2. Situation: Texans face first-and-goal, WAS 6, 23 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Score: Washington 27, Houston 10. Play: Walter brings Houston closer
A beautifully executed bootleg by Schaub to find Kevin Walter for the touchdown. Note how Walter brushed past Lorenzo Alexander, who was overplaying the run, to get wide open in the flat just in front of Reed Doughty, who was caught in no-man's land.
3. Situation: Redskins face first-and-10, own 20, start of the fourth quarter. Score: Washington 27, Houston 17. Play: LJ goes backwards
If one play sums up the Redskins running game so far this season, it's this one. Larry Johnson took the handoff from McNabb, tried to go left, found no joy, tried to reverse his field, and was caught for a whopping 10 yard loss by Glover Quin. It was the last time Johnson touched the ball all game, and the Redskins went 3-and-out.
4. Situation: Texans face first-and-10, own 34, 13:15 left in regulation. Score: Washington 27, Houston 17. Play: Schaub to Walter, again
Carlos Rogers thought he would be getting safety help from LaRon Landry on this play (watch the two gesturing to each other before the snap). Rogers was wrong, and paid for it by giving up a 35-yard pass play that brought Houston to Washington's 31-yard line, and set up a Neil Rackers field goal that cut the lead to seven.
5. Situation: Redskins face third-and-1, HOU 5, 7:49 left in regulation. Score: Washington 27, Houston 20. Play: Jammal jumps the gun.
Given the state of the Redskins running game, picking up the required yardage on this play was no gimme. However, as we will shortly see, the difference between third-and-1 and third-and-6 would be massive Sunday.
6. Situation: Redskins face fourth-and-6, HOU 10, 6:40 left in regulation. Score: Washington 27, Houston 20. Play: Bernard blocks Gano
On the third-and-6 play after Brown's false start, McNabb threw an incomplete pass that was nearly intercepted. The Redskins were forced into a 29-yard field goal attempt. Fred Davis, who barely laid a hand on Bernard Pollard as he went flying in to block the kick, picks up the story:
"I tried to put my arm on him, I had him for a second, but I didn't want to hold him. He just ducked under me and jumped in the way of the kick. He didn't do anything we haven't seen on film before."