There were a lot of big plays in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 51-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The punt return by Rashad Greene was certainly one. The 80-yard touchdown by Allen Hurns was another. But in my opinion, it was Andre Branch's strip of Matt Hasselbeck that changed the landscape of the game the most.
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said it "changed the momentum of the game" and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano called it "the momentum turn". Getting a defensive touchdown is always a big play, but with less than two minutes remaining, the difference between going into halftime down 13-3 and 13-9 is the difference between letting this game get away from you and winning it 51-16.
The strip came on a simple four-man rush. Branch was out wide and Jared Odrick was playing the defensive end position from the opposite side. Tyson Alualu and Roy Miller were playing inside. Hasselbeck wasn't pressured into going towards Branch and stayed in the same spot in the pocket for the entire play.
Colts rookie right tackle Denzelle Good (No. 71) pushes Branch out wide and it looks like a normal play where Branch isn't able to affect the quarterback. But Good is just a second too late in getting in position and that allows Branch a fighting chance to move towards the quarterback and get his left hand on the ball.
In short, it's a combination of luck, bad technique by Good, and Branch physically imposing himself on an opponent (what?) to be in position to knock the ball out of Hasselbeck's hand.
I played poorly [in the first half]," said Blake Bortles. "But Andre Branch picking up that fumble and running that in was huge. To be able to go into the half just down a couple of points was, I thought, really good."
Games are decided on plays like Branch's touchdown. Without that play, the Jaguars are down 13-3 at halftime. Heck, they're probably down by more because the Colts were in Jaguars territory and driving. If Branch doesn't make that play, who knows how different today would be.