Just minding his own business last week in RFK Stadium, Greg Williams turned his head toward the line of scrimmage and suddenly noticed the last thing he expected to see -- the football -- fluttering his way. Contorting his body, Williams caught the St. Louis punt just 13 yards downfield.
One of the Redskins' plays that doomed the Cowboys in Dallas two games ago was exactly the wrong call for the defense. The last thing that should have worked against three blitzers was a reverse, yet Art Monk broke it for 18 yards.
The only Miami Dolphin with a chance to stop John Riggins slipped just before the snap, and the most famous play in Redskins history fetched their first NFL championship in four decades.
Part of the fascination with football is how many times something exquisite rises out of slop, how many times days of preparation get foiled by one moment of madness.
Few teams have managed victory without an unexpected break at a critical time; nobody ever won a championship without season-long blocking from the only two non-males openly welcome in most NFL clubhouses: Dame Fortune and Lady Luck.
If you're a little vicious, Otis Wonsley guesses, you'll also be a little lucky.
For the Redskins' latest special-teams star, it means that hand-to-hand combat through a double-team on kickoffs often leads to a pleasant surprise: the ball carrier waiting to be caressed and stuck in the ground, like a geranium.
When the Redskins seemed to need an offensive confidence builder, or a team they could beat without John Riggins, up popped the Lions, Falcons, Bills and some others.
Critics could never make too much of Redskins losses, because recovery seemed only a flight to Indianapolis or Minneapolis or Boston away.
Luck being the residue of design, as Branch Rickey preached, most of the 128 interceptions and fumble recoveries the last three regular seasons have been because the Redskins work at making them happen.
"I don't think we've been lucky at all," Rich Milot argues. "I think we've earned everything we've gotten."
He emphasized that almost no victory had been easy this season, that an inordinate number of players had been injured, that adversity had all but bought a condo in the shrinking woodland near Redskin Park.
Most of that's true. But wasn't it fortunate that when Tony Peters could no longer play well at strong safety with an injury, Ken Coffey was healthy again? Without suggesting the knee injury to Jeff Bostic was any less cruel or disheartening, center was the one position the Redskins had recently strengthened.
Milot is the player the Redskins' medical staff gambled greatest on this season and won. He had surgery on his left elbow, and popular wisdom practically mandated the Redskins place him on injured reserve.
In addition to adding to that already crowded roster, Milot would have missed at least four games. The Redskins opted to keep him inactively active, on the squad while mending.
"Sometimes it takes bad luck to get good luck," said quarterback Joe Theismann.
He means that if Charlie Brown had not gotten hurt, General Manager Bobby Beathard would not have been able to heist Calvin Muhammad from the Raiders.
Three world-class catchers are always better than two.
Even the damn-the-torpedoes defenses that so many since the Raiders have thrown at the Redskins will be helpful in the long run, Theismann reasons.
In losses to the Raiders in the Super Bowl and to the Cardinals, Giants and Eagles this season, the Redskins have learned.
"We now know we can put points on the board when defenses blitz," Theismann said. "We already knew we could put points on the board when they sat back. There isn't much anybody can do other than that."
Theismann's own luckiest moment of the season? Those 14 sacks the last two games flashed through his mind and he laughed:
"Being able to stand here and talk to you; being alive."
It was a wondrous piece of happenstance that the Cardinals completed their next-to-last play on third down last week instead of second. Otherwise, Neil Lomax could have thrown the ball away and stopped the clock.
With time, Neil O'Donoghue might have been more accurate from 50 yards and lifted the Cards to the NFC East title by a point; even in the confusion, he was long enough.
Some plays are diamonds.
Earlier in the game, the Redskins had a play they thought could not possibly fail. It involved John Riggins running to the open side of the field, if the linebacker there trotted out toward the wide receiver.
Sure enough, the linebacker left his area apparently unmanned. But the instant Theismann's audible left his lips a safety walked over to fill the gap -- and stuffed Riggins.
Some plays are stones.
"With the gambling-type defenses we've been seeing lately," all-pro guard Russ Grimm said, "the element of luck is an even more important factor.
"On the goal line, for instance, you hope that when they slant out you've got a trap going up the middle. When they pinch, you want to go around end."
He shrugged. Life's often a coin toss.
If you're virtuous, industrious, wise and alert, and also happen to be in the right places at the right times more than the other guys, you get to be like the Redskins just now.
You get a chance to guess again.