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Player Spotlight: Curtis Samuel comes up big for Washington twice on Fourth Down

Washington does not win against the Indianapolis Colts without the playmaking ability of Taylor Heinicke on their last drive. But Washington also does not win without Curtis Samuel’s late game efforts.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The final two drives for Washington displayed several instances of high-level football awareness and playmaking ability for the Commanders. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke and Receiver Terry McLaurin are the names everyone is talking about, deservedly so, but receiver Curtis Samuel's playmaking ability was also on full display.

Samuel finished the final two drives with two catches for 30 yards; both catches came on fourth down to extend Washington's scoring drives leading to the game's final ten points. Let's dive deeper, though; Curtis Samuel's ability to win in that moment deserves to put the spotlight on him in Washington's road win in Indianapolis.

Context: Fourth Quarter - 4th and six at Indy 48, Washington trails by nine points 16-7.

Samuel is aligned at the left slot position, and the Colts are in Cover 1. Samuel begins with an inside release, selling his route stem to appear like an Over route, which cornerback Kenny Moore bites on and commits to. Samuel's route tempo, balance, and change of direction on this play allow him to sink his hips and break back out toward the sideline where the field is vacated. Samuel also had good play strength at the breakpoint to fight through Moore's contact and create separation by carrying his route vertically and away from Moore. Furthermore, Curtis displayed excellent awareness to secure the catch and maintain two hands on the football as he ran out of bounds. Samuel's physical and mental toughness was on full display at that moment, understanding Washington's situation and winning in a 1-on-1 situation.

Context: Fourth Quarter - 4th and one at Washington 20, Washington trails by six points 16-10.

Another instance of Samuel's mental toughness in a critical moment for Washington. To start, the Colts initially win in coverage and were also able to create good pressure on Taylor Heinicke. RG Trai Turner and RT Cornelius Lucas fail to pick up the Colts' line stunt that allows edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue a free path to the quarterback. Heinicke can manipulate the pocket successfully and evade the pass rush, creating a scramble drill opportunity for his receivers. Curtis Samuel ends up being the only receiver at that moment that works with Heinicke. Samuel begins by carrying his route vertically before changing directions and mirroring Heinicke's scramble path toward the sideline, where he is able to find the zone void in the defense. Samuel's competitiveness saves the game-winning touchdown drive for the Commanders.

Samuel finished the day with seven touches for 79 all-purpose yards, but his final two catches and how he won on the play were critical factors behind Washington winning its third-straight game.

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