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WP: In the NFL, one play can alter a season


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On the morning of Friday, Nov. 18, as most of the Washington Redskins gathered for special teams meetings, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called quarterback Rex Grossman into his office. On a flat-screen television, Shanahan ran tape of what seemed to be an innocuous play from nearly two months earlier — a third-down pass on a Monday night in Dallas, when Grossman had looked for wide receiver Terrence Austin. The play was designed to go for a touchdown, but Austin tripped, and the ball fell incomplete.

As Shanahan and Grossman met, the Redskins were two days away from hosting the Cowboys again. They had scored just one touchdown in three games. They needed a play — one play — to get them going. What if the same situation arose, the Cowboys came with a similar defense, and the Redskins tried again, with a slight alteration?

“I was like: ‘I like it. Let’s call it,’ ” Grossman said. “We need to have some explosive plays there that get us touchdowns, instead of just . . .”

The message was implied: Instead of just stalling, settling for field goals, losing.

Less than an hour later, the Redskins gathered on the practice field, where the offense would do what it does every Friday: Install the package of plays to be used in the red zone. During that session, Shanahan told Grossman to call “North Right Clamp, H-2 Special, Z Bingo Choice, X Corner Post.”

In any given NFL game, there are roughly 130 snaps. Coaches and players know that any one of them can change a game and, thereby, a season. By the time the Redskins selected that play as one they might use in the second Dallas game, they desperately needed a moment that could put a quarterback controversy behind them and show they could score.

The play’s evolution — from the first time Shanahan called a variation of it on Sept. 26, to its appearance on his video screen weeks later, to its installation and eventual execution against Dallas the second time around — illustrates how much effort and preparation goes into drawing up, calling and running a potential game-changer for each NFL team in each NFL game, every single week of the season.

It was just one of perhaps 100 plays the Redskins had available specifically for the Cowboys. Each must be watched, reconsidered, broken down and built back up again, perhaps with a change or two, influenced by guesswork about how the opponent will respond.

“That’s the only way you get better,” said Mike Shanahan, the Redskins’ head coach and Kyle’s father. “You take a look at a play and you say: ‘Hey, was it the right call? Was it the right defense? Did we work on it enough? Did we blitz? Were we at the right depth? Did we have the right matchups with the right players?’”

Meticulous play design

When the Redskins played at Dallas in Week 3, they were locked in a 6-6 tie as they drove downfield midway through the second quarter. A three-yard pass from Grossman to rookie running back Roy Helu pushed the ball into the red zone — inside the 20-yard line — but left them in a difficult spot: third and five from the 18.

Cont'd at link:


*Was posted in BRBN but I thought it was an interesting article that some may have missed.

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