Key Matchup: Linebacker Jerod Mayo makes a play with the game on the line
|12.11.11 at 5:00 pm ET|
The key play in the Patriots’ 34 -27 win over the Redskins Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field came late in the fourth quarter with Washington driving for what would have been a game-tying score.
New England was in this rater precarious position because of what had happened down at the other end of the field — namely, a pair of ugly back-to-back plays for the Patriots’ offense. First, wide receiver Wes Welker dropped what would have been a sure touchdown at the goal line. Then, quarterback Tom Brady threw a red-zone pick on a ball meant for wide receiver Tiquan Underwood. (That sparked a heated sideline debate between Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.)
The Redskins responded nicely, as quarterback Rex Grossman drove them from their own 20 all the way down into the New England red zone with under two minutes to go. But just as Brady would encounter misfortune on his trip inside the Washington 20-yard line, Grossman and wide receiver Santana Moss would falter deep in Patriots’ territory.
First, a touchdown pass from Grossman to Moss from five yards out was called back because of offensive pass interference. Then, with the Redskins sitting on a 3rd and goal from the nine with 29 seconds left, Grossman dropped back to pass and looked again for Moss, this time over the middle. Grossman let fly, and the ball was batted up in the air by the receiver, who landed awkwardly on the grass. Linebacker Jerod Mayo plucked it out of the air, allowing him to come away with his second interception for Mayo in as many weeks. After a booth review to confirm that the linebacker hung on to the ball, the game was over.
‘We were in a zone defense (and) it looked like they tried to check it down,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the play. “Jerod made it look like it was going to be incomplete and he kind of — I’m not going to say he came out of nowhere, but he made a good burst and closed to make the play.’