Ball in hand, Danny Woodhead reached for the pylon. The official’s hands went up.
Touchdown — and certain victory — for the San Diego Chargers. Defeat for the Washington Redskins, and a place in the basement of the NFC East.
Referee Jerome Boger looked at the replay and decided the ball didn’t touch the bright orange marker. The ball was placed inside the 1-yard line. First-and-goal. Twenty-one seconds remaining.
The Redskins held. One run and two passes failed to move the ball. The Chargers opted to kick a short field goal to send the game into overtime, and Washington won it, 30-24, on fullback Darrel Young’s 4-yard run on the opening drive of the extra period.
"First-and-1 on the goal line? Most cases that’s a touchdown," Washington 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 made the 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 1 games off the pace in the weak NFC East ahead of a trip to Minnesota (1-7) on Thursday.
Young was the unlikely man of the hour. He 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 the extra period.
"They’ll definitely be more aware of DY — the `three-touchdown fullback,’" quarterback Robert Griffin III said with a smile.
Griffin completed 23 of 32 passes for 291 yards with one interception and ran six times for 17 yards. He has been far from consistent in his second NFL season, but he looked more like an RG3-style showcase player Sunday.
He overcame an early interception in his own end zone and lived dangerously throughout the game, pitching the ball at the last minute on option plays and scrambling for open space, including a 10-yard ramble that ended when he was flung to the turf by Thomas Keiser.
"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."
Griffin also found receivers when they were open — something else that’s been missing this season. Pierre Garcon had seven receptions for 172 yards, and Alfred Morris rushed 25 times for 121 yards and a score.
The Chargers (4-4), trying to keep pace in the top-heavy AFC West, overcame a 10-point deficit late in regulation. There was some thought in the San Diego locker room that Woodhead’s touchdown should have counted.
"I thought he got in," said Philip Rivers, who completed 29 of 46 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns. "Especially when it was called on the field, I thought it was going to be a hard one to overturn."
Still, the Chargers needed only 1 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.
They then settled for overtime, tying the game on 19-yard field goal by Nick Novak with 3 seconds on the clock.
"I’m not questioning any of the calls," San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. "We did what we thought was best to win the football game and we’re moving on. … Hey, in this business, would’ve, should’ve, could’ve. If one of those three plays worked, there’s no questions asked."
The Chargers built a 14-7 first-half lead on special teams. They blocked two field goals — 11 years to the day since they last blocked one — and put two punts down at the 1-yard line.
Lawrence Guy, picked up off waivers less than a month ago, blocked a field goal in the first quarter and batted a pass that caromed off Cam Thomas and into the arms of Sean Lissemore for a touchdown in the second quarter. Corey Liuget batted down back-to-back passes, then blocked a field goal on the last play of the first half.
Notes: The Chargers set a franchise record by not allowing an offensive touchdown for a 12th consecutive quarter. The streak ended when Morris scored in the second quarter. … Washington’s Santana Moss had his 700th career reception. … The Redskins’ other two victories this season came against backup quarterbacks (Matt Flynn and Josh McCown).