After losing their first match-up against the Cowboys, which occurred in Week 8, the Washington Redskins traveled to AT&T Stadium in Texas this week, hoping to even the score. Unfortunately, things never really were close at hand for the burgundy and gold (or, all burgundy, if you want to focus on the color rush uniforms.)
The defense started the game exactly as you’d hope: forcing several three and outs. Zach Brown, who was questionable after spending the week on Washington’s injury report, got pressure on Prescott, and running back Alfred Morris was slow to get started. So, what do you have to say when your defense is setting you up with a couple of nice chances in the first quarter? You respond with a stalled first offensive drive, and a second drive that involves Samaje Perine getting pushed backwards, Josh Doctson dropping the ball, and Jamison Crowder losing a bullet from Kirk Cousins that deflected right into the waiting hands of Dallas’ defense.
Thus began the efforts of raising the bar in mental errors and silly mistakes. Crowder followed the interception play up with a fumbled punt return, recovered by the Cowboys. Though the defense was again able to stop Dallas from scoring, Washington started the following series on their own goal line, moving even closer to it when Tony Bergstrom, the back-up for injured center Chase Roullier, was called for a false start penalty. The Redskins managed to break away from the end zone, giving themselves enough breathing room to avoid a safety, but the good news didn’t last for long. Dak Prescott drove the Cowboys down the field and, in what was a horrible mismatch between a 6’5”, 265 lb tight end and a 6’4”, 194 lb safety, Jason Witten beat Deshazor Everett to put the Cowboys up 7-0.
While the Redskins attempted to respond, right tackle Morgan Moses, who’s been playing with battered ankles and knees for weeks, went down when his right ankle got caught in the pile of players at the end of a play, and the Redskins had to rethink possible arrangements for their offensive line. Arie Kouandjio went in at left guard and Ty Nsekhe shifted over to right tackle, a change that didn’t go well for the remainder of the game. Cousins was promptly sacked, losing the ball in the ensuing fumble, and Dallas took advantage of the turnover to put three more points on the board. Just minutes later, the Cowboys added seven more points to their score when Tress Way seemed to outkick his coverage and rookie Ryan Switzer returned the punt for a touchdown.
Though Washington tried to give the ball back to Dallas with another near-fumble from Crowder, the Redskins did find a way to respond to the 17-0 scoreboard with a 30+ yard reception from Crowder and a 20 yard touchdown reception from Ryan Grant, closing the gap to 17-7 going into halftime.
When Washington came out of the tunnel to start the second half, the calamity continued. Cousins was sacked on the first drive, one of four sacks he took in the game. The struggles he faced, though partially his fault, were really due in large part to the constantly shifting offensive line make-up, which continued to change as Trent Williams left the game momentarily and was replaced by Tyler Catalina.
From then on, Dallas largely maintained control of the clock. The Cowboys went with a “use the approach that fits you best in the moment” approach, which meant depending on Prescott when needed, in spite of his swelling throwing hand that resulted from the impact of a Redskins’ helmet during a tackle, but relying largely on Morris to simply wear down Stacy McGee, Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and others along Washington’s defensive front.
As Dallas started the fourth quarter with a touchdown, putting them ahead 24-7, Washington’s offensive unit decided it was time to respond and keep the game within reach. Cousins led his teammates on a nine play, 87 yard drive, spreading the ball around and moving it more effectively than at any other moment in the game. He capped off the drive with a touchdown to Doctson, but, regardless of the offense’s attempt to get within striking distance to make a comeback, the defense’s inability to stop the Cowboys’ ground game doomed their efforts.
Dallas responded with two more touchdowns, including one by Morris, and an interception of Cousins on a pass intended for Ryan Grant, Cousins’ second interception of the night. In what was essentially a “must win” game, the Redskins couldn’t pull together any semblance of sustained competency, and the struggles in all three phases of the game left players visibly frustrated, sparring with opposing players in the closing minutes of the competition. The team will have ten days off before taking on the Chargers in LA on December 10, and while they’re likely out of the playoff hunt after tonight’s loss, they have big issues to figure out the coming weeks, including the much-debated question of what they should do with Cousins for next year. Will they find any answers? If they play like they did tonight, I have my doubts.
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