Whatever you want to name it, the Redskins haven't found a way to tame it.
Call it bad luck, voodoo or just the breaks of the game, but an unseen negative inertia pervades on the gridiron this year.
Sitting at 3-12 with one game left in the 2013 season, Washington is still searching for a way to reverse course and manipulate the momentum.
They have had to shake the memories of last week, another example of a golden opportunity that fell short.
Leading the Dallas Cowboys by six with 2:16 remaining on Sunday, the Redskins stopped three consecutive plays inside the 4-yard line and forced a 9-yard loss on third-and -goal from the 1-yard line.
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall set the edge and linebacker Perry Riley Jr. sent running back DeMarco Murray twirling in the direction of his own end zone. Then Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo pulled what Dez Bryant called a "Houdini," running and pumping before throwing a 10-yard touchdown strike to Murray.
In one eight-second play, the Cowboys spoiled what had been a dominant defensive performance. On the ensuing Redskins possession, the offense went three-and-out.
"You're always trying to seize the momentum," defensive captain Barry Cofield assessed.
"We felt like we had it, but it can change quickly, and obviously it did. That's been the story of the season… A lot of times the negativity has spiraled out of control, and we have a tendency to let negative momentum drag us down as opposed to building on positive momentum."
The Redskins have lost seven games in a row. The margin of defeat during that streak has averaged 11.4 points, but was a single point in each of the last two weeks.
When Washington hasn't succumbed to slow starts, it has allowed second-half scoring runs too large to overcome.
The Eagles ran out to a 33-7 lead in Week 1, but only beat the Redskins by six points.
Washington had the Denver Broncos on the ropes, leading 21-7 in the first half, but fell after allowing 38 unanswered points to end the game.
The Redskins jumped out to a 14-0 lead on New York and lost. They led the Falcons by three points at halftime and lost by one. They could have won or tied at Philadelphia and Minnesota, but last-ditch throws in the end zone didn't work out.
On Sunday vs. Dallas, the Redskins couldn't squeeze enough out of a stellar third-quarter run.
After settling for two field goals in the first half, Washington recovered a fumble and intercepted Romo on Dallas' first two drives of the third quarter. The Redskins turned both turnovers into touchdowns, snatching a 23-14 lead.
Dallas responded with a 15-play drive that consumed more than half of the fourth quarter. Even then, Cofield tipped a Romo pass on third down to force a field goal, and the Cowboys needed a touchdown to win.
But the Redskins' offense fell flat after one first down. Sav Rocca pinned Dallas back to its 13-yard line, but Romo erased that good will with a 51-yard bomb to Terrance Williams on a broken play before Washington couldn't hold its water on fourth-and-goal.
"We really felt like we were in a good spot, but it's a cruel game," Cofield said.
"It's up and down, and the emotions of the game can be striking at times. We're all disappointed."
Romo's slick sense outside of the pocket thwarted Washington's attempts to rise to another crucial moment in the second quarter.
Facing 3rd-and-9 from the 14-yard line, Romo barely had time to drop back before he felt defensive back E.J. Biggers crash through the pocket unblocked on a corner blitz. Romo spun, Biggers missed and Dez Bryant caught a touchdown pass.
"You've just got to make that play," Biggers said.
"Everybody else did their job, and I didn't. It gave them a touchdown. That's the difference in the game right there, so I've got to make that play."
Riley Jr. said busted coverages were the culprit behind the defensive collapse.
He led the defense with 8 stops and a tackle for loss, but was disappointed his unit couldn't cement a victory for his mentor, London Fletcher.
"We're fed up," Riley Jr. said. "Everybody on this team is fed up at this point. We should be winning. We need to be winning. We're not winning, and that's frustrating."
All that's left is to travel to New York, where Cofield spent the first five years of his career.
The nose tackle said he is relishing one more opportunity to play well before closing the book on a bewildering season.
"I think we're looking forward to going out and trying to get a win, trying to end the season with ... some kind of positivity," he said.
"Hopefully with one game left guys aren't looking too into the future. You know you only got one (game), so you can just put your all into this one."