DeSean & the goal line
DeSean Jackson is an incredible talent. He has the kind of salivating speed that every team would love to have — especially this particular Packers team, in a season where that very thing has been one of their core issues on offense — and is one of the premiere deep threats the league has to offer.
He can break a game open on any given snap; if a defense has a lapse in attention in his direction even once, it could be the difference between a win or a loss.
What tends to bring him down throughout his career has usually had more to do with him than anything opposing teams do.
He has had injury issues at times (which we saw strike him again earlier this season), but the bigger problem he comes up against is when his confidence overtakes his better judgment.
Don’t get me wrong; swagger is not just an empowering characteristic and inherently necessary in this sport (and most aspects of life, really).
When you let it overtake your better judgment, however, it can do more harm than good. You can see that throughout his career where it has gone wrong at times, and he provided another example early in this game.
Washington was up 2-0 after the early safety and driving toward a TD late in the first quarter, set to go up at least 8-0.
DeSean seemed to give them that score on a 15-yard catch-&-run where he cut across the middle of the field to secure the pass in space before streaking towards the right side of the end-zone.
He looked to have barely made it in despite close pursuit, stepping in right at the pylon at that corner along the sideline for that very lead.
But then the play was under review.
As soon as the replays were going, it was clear that while his body crossed the goal line, he didn’t manage to have the ball cross the line as well; that is a necessary part of scoring.
It would have been simple enough to get it over, but he proceeded to just hold it in his right hand, not showing any insistence in making sure it crossed the goal lline.
This may not seem like much, but he has a history of not paying attention to simple details like this; we should all remember that time he flipped the ball out of his hand right before crossing the goal line after a thought-to-be long-TD catch-&-run.
That went from a guaranteed TD to a lost fumble, a true gut-punch of a play to wipe off points that should have been there (incidentally, Eddie Lacy basically did the same thing earlier this season after a long screen pass, almost wiping off a TD in the process too; I’m not a fan of this incessant type of lacking judgment, if you can’t tell).
He also has shown a tendency to showboat around the goal-line in other cases, waiting until defenders finally get close before finally running in — but not before running horizontally along the goal line to show off.
This appears to be another (albeit lesser) case of that same decision-making, with how simple it would have been for him to just reach the ball ahead.
Since he didn’t, the TD call was reversed, giving Washington the ball on the 2. They still were in plenty good position to score, but this team has struggled running most of the season (#32 in rush offense DVOA* in 2015) and it wasn’t a guarantee that they would convert.
As it turned out, they didn’t.
The Packers held a massive defensive stand, stuffing two runs before stopping a pass attempt (after a delay of game penalty on Washington) to hold them to a field goal.
Instead of being up 8-0 or 9-0 (with an XP, which wasn’t guaranteed either, as shown on their following TD) at that point, they were only up 5-0.
Had they scored a TD instead, they likely would have been up 15-0 after their following score. That isn’t insurmountable (as shown by the eventual 35 points Green Bay scored) but the goal line stand undoubtedly boosted the confidence of a defense that went on from there to have a strong afternoon.
Green Bay eventually got their offense to make some much-needed plays to supplement the defensive efforts, but any positives for the Packers began right at this moment.
It could have all been very different had DeSean just reached that ball over the goal line.
Next: Converting In Red-Zone