With the game hinging on a replay review, Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan could only think the worst.
"Honestly, I was kind of bummed," Kerrigan said. "I'm sitting here, I'm like, 'How did we let this lead go away?'"
Referee Jerome Boger gave Kerrigan and the Redskins a reprieve. He looked under the hood and decided that the ball didn't touch the pylon when Danny Woodhead lunged for the goal line. The ball was placed inside the 1-yard line with 21 seconds to go, the Redskins leading the San Diego Chargers by three.
Then Kerrigan and his teammates stood their ground. The Chargers tried three times and couldn't get the winning touchdown. They settled for a field goal that sent the game to overtime, and the Redskins won Sunday's game in the extra period, 30-24, on Darrel Young's 4-yard run.
"First-and-1 on the goal line? Most cases that's a touchdown," linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "Our defense, everybody looked in each other's eyes. I could remember: 'Do not cross this line, this goal line.' On the field, London Fletcher and everybody reiterating it to each other, like: 'They do not cross this line right here.'"
The replay reversal and the goal-line stand make a difference, at least for a few more days, between relevance and season-out-to-pasture for the Redskins (3-5), who, despite their record, remain only 1½ games off the pace in the bottom-heavy NFC East.
"Players want to have something they can believe in," said Robert Griffin III, who threw for 291 yards, "and the way our division is set up right now, we have something to believe in."
The AFC West, meanwhile, is top-heavy, and the third-place Chargers (4-4) are hard-pressed to keep pace. They rallied from 10 points down late in regulation against the Redskins, but clearly left a victory out on the field.
"If we have the ball on the half-yard line, three plays, it's our job to score," San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. "And we didn't."
Here's a look at the five reasons for the Redskins' win:
REPLAY MATTERS: Rivers made the case that Woodhead's score should have counted, if only because it wasn't easy to find a good replay angle. This truly was a game decided by inches.
"The ref on the field ... says he sees it touch the pylon," Rivers said. "I know you couldn't tell that from the video. ... But I thought he got in. Especially when it was called on the field, I thought it was going to be a hard one to overturn."
BUT STILL ... : Even then, the Chargers needed only one more yard to win, and they couldn't get it. Woodhead went nowhere on first-and-goal. A fade route for Antonio Gates on second down didn't come close, and neither did a third-down rollout throw to Keenan Allen.
"It was all there for us to win," San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. "They out-executed us for three plays, and that's what it comes down to."
RG3 TAKES FLIGHT: Griffin has been a yo-yo this year. On Sunday, he was closer to his electrifying 2012 form, using the read option to set up open passes downfield and even running the triple option a few times. He also converted a third-and-9 with a 10-yard ramble that ended when he was flung to the turf by Thomas Keiser, keeping alive a drive that ended in a touchdown.
"A lot of people criticize me for some of that stuff all of the time," Griffin said. "And, you know, I could've went out of bounds and we'd have been short of the first down. I saw an opportunity to fly, so I popped out my wings and tried to fly."
WHO'S THAT FULLBACK? Young had carried the ball only twice all season and had scored only three touchdowns in his three-plus years in the NFL. On Sunday, he was the goal-line bruiser, scoring on a pair of 1-yard runs in regulation before storming his way into the end zone 6:01 into overtime. Now defenses have another Redskins running threat to worry about.
"They'll definitely be more aware of DY — the 'three-touchdown fullback,'" Griffin said with a smile.
ROLE REVERSAL: The Redskins' passing game was tepid a week ago, while the Chargers had become so efficient that Rivers led the NFL in completion percentage. Therefore, it was quite a change for Washington to dominate time of possession (40:03 to 25:58) and third-conversions (71 percent to 33 percent), again reverting to its successful formula from 2012.
"We just decided we were going to do some things we did a little bit more last year," Shanahan said.
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