January 23, 2021

Washington Redskins continue trend of primetime nightmares by fumbling away division against Cowboys


Mark Tenally/Associated Press

Mark Tenally/Associated Press

Last week’s victory over the New York Giants to take control of the NFC East showed that the Washington Redskins are indeed contenders, not just pretenders. However, with the Philadelphia Eagles returning to form with the return of Sam Bradford, the magnitude of a prime time matchup against the archrival Dallas Cowboys grew.

In their last 22 games in night games, Washington is a dismal 4-18, though they were victorious last year in Dallas under the lights. After the team’s traded  field goals, an action-packed final two minutes ended in the Redskins doom.

Dan Bailey hit a 54-yard field goal with 9 seconds to go and the Cowboys further muddled the mess that is the NFC East with a 19-16 win over the Redskins. 

In a sloppy, ugly game, the Redskins owned the ugliest play. DeSean Jackson was sent to return a punt with 1:47 left in the game. Jackson fielded it an took it out past the Redskins 20, but reversed field, lost yardage all the way back inside the 5, then fumbled, with punter C__ Jones recovering — the first time since 2007 a punter has done so.

Following Rashad Ross’ 42-yard kickoff return and facemask penalty on the Cowboys, Washington had a fighting chance, starting 43 yards away from a tying score. An out route for 9 yards to Pierre Garcon and Chris Thompson’s 6-yard draw set up a shot for DeSean Jackson looking for redemption.

Kirk Cousins delivered the ball on the money for the deep threat, who burned Morris Claiborne on a go-route for a 28-yard touchdown. Tress Way got the ball down on a poor snap for the ensuing PAT to tie the game at 16.

Washington special teams returned the favor, though, with poor special teams coverage. Hopkins inexcusably did not kick the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone and 46 yards later Dallas was already less than 20 yards away from field goal range. 20 yards is exactly what Matt Cassel got from Dez Bryant and Bailey, with ice in his veins, nailed a 54-yard field goal for the game.

Things were fairly ugly when Cousins started the game with the ball. The offensive line could not hold up and Washington gave up two sacks on their first drive after having none all game against the Giants. Luckily, the defense forced Darren McFadden’s first fumble of the year. But similarly to the Giants game, the Redskins did not capitalize on the turnover. With the Cowboys backed up on the flipped field position, Ryan Kerrigan forced a three-and-out on a quarterback pressure to force an incomplete pass. Jordan Reed continued his penalty-filled play with holding foul that forced the Redskins third straight three-and-out.

After allowing the Cowboys initial first down of the game, Washington’s defense clamped back down to force another punt. But the Redskins drive stalled on the third sack of Cousins of the game after converting a third down. Following yet another three-and-out from the Cowboys, Washington was nearing field goal range after a third down conversion by Garcon run after the catch on the slant route. However, a “crackback” foul on Ryan Grant, where he totally whiffed, derailed another offensive drive.

Jason Witten, a well documented Redskins killer, caught his 1,000th career reception on back-to-back first down plays. On the next play, DaShon Goldson did not get his head around in coverage on Terrance Williams and allowed a 37-yard completion. The defense held Dallas to a field goal, but in a game that saw both sides struggle offensively, that was quite a lead.

With Washington in fear of yet another three-and-out, Jordan Reed delivered on third-and-11 by rumbling through two Cowboys to make an underneath dump off a first down. On one of the Redskins only good runs of the game, Matt Jones rumbled for another first down. Then after begging for the ball on the sidelines, Jackson converted on third-and-6 to keep Washington’s drive alive. After a fourth first down on third-and-14 — a shocking conversion for Washington — the drive stalled following a highly questionable offensive pass interference call against Garcon. The Redskins salvaged a field goal to tie the game at 3 going into halftime.

Right when McFadden was getting the running game going for the Cowboys, another hard hit, this time from Bashaud Breeland, forced a second fumble. After two first downs from Jones on the ground, it looked like he had a third, but was marked just short of the line to gain. Washington could not gain a yard on back-to-back dive plays and were forced into another field goal attempt. Dustin Hopkins gave the Redskins their first points off turnovers in the past two games, as well as a 6-3 lead.

Dallas responded with another big gain to Terrance Williams for 25 yards. The Redskins defense was not able to get off the field on a third-and-9, when Breeland was called for a rather soft pass interference call. The teams did it one more time, and Quinton Dunbar would be the victim against Dez Bryant on a pass interference call. When it looked like the Cowboys had the ball for the entire quarter, it was Houston Bates coming off the edge to stop Robert Turbin on a third-and-1 to force a field goal attempt. Bailey’s 34-yarder tied things up at 6 to culminate their seven-minute drive.

Sean McVay started moving the pocket for Cousins with boot legs and quick passing. This helped Washington gain small chunks of yardage and stay in manageable situations. The offense moved the ball to the Cowboys 30, where they were faced with a third-and-5. After faking action to the right, Cousins fired back to the left for a Jamison Crowder screen, but Spencer Long got too far out in front of the play and did not block Sean Lee coming in from the side. The play could have gone for a touchdown if Long is able to do his job, but Washington had to settle for yet another Hopkins field goal, this time form 46 yards, to go up 9-6.

After three first downs for the Cowboys to enter plus-territory, Washington continued their scrappiness. In his first start of the season, Mason Foster seemed to learn from DeAngelo Hall to strip at the football while his teammates hold the receiver up. The Redskins forced and recovered their third fumble of the game to stop a Cowboys threat. After another successful bootleg for a 20 yard gain, Cousins escaped pressure in the pocket and found Jackson down the field to convert a second-and-11. The drive came to an end, though, when Cousins could not find an open man beyond the sticks on third-and-7 while trying to elude the pressure. Washington came up completely empty as Hopkins’ kick did not hook at all and missed wide right.

Following a jet sweep to Lucky Whitehead for a gain of 22 yards, Cassel targeted Dez Bryant against Will Blackmon. Bryant came through with a diving catch for a 42-yard gain all the way down to the Washington 3. When all looked lost, a batted ball by Ricky-Jean Francois and back-to-back stuffs at the line of scrimmage forced Dallas into yet another field goal attempt. That goal line stand will be up there with the one against the Buccaneers that helped complete the franchise comeback, and Baileys 20-yard kick tied it yet again..

Cousins had no answer for the Dallas blitz and had a quick three-and-out at the worse possible time. The Michigan State product had Garcon open down the field on third-and-8 but had too little air under the ball to get a completion. On a third-and-10, Joe Barry brought the house and forced a one-hopper from Cassel to force a punt under two minutes. That is where disaster sat in for Washington. DeSean Jackson was given the opportunity to return the punt instead of Crowder. The frustrated receiver made the cardinal sin of reversing his field for a whopping 20 yards and then got pumped and fumbled. Whether the Redskins let Dallas or not, McFadden scored the game’s first touchdown with 1:14 remaining in the game.

All that was left after Bailey’s field goal that made it 19-16 was to watch the Redskins bungle their way through a multi-lateral kickoff return that was eventually whistled for an illegal forward lateral. It was an appropriately ugly ending to an ugly football game.

The Redskins fell to 5-7 and a three way tie in the NFC East with a road test against the Chicago Bears on a short week.

About Neil Dalal

Neil Dalal is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Wizards, and Maryland Terrapins. Neil grew up in Silver Spring, MD and attends the University of Maryland. Neil has loved everything related to the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, and Terrapins since he was eight years old. However, he favors the Orioles, as he started watching baseball before the Expos moved to DC. You can follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.


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