In all the confusion that is the NFC East, the 3-8 Dallas Cowboys rumbled into FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland to take on the 5-6 division leading/rival Washington Redskins.
What looked like a banner season, on paper, for the regulators from Dallas has turned into a nightmare of injury and confusion. How could a team that was 12-4 last season, add Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Byron Jones, and get Sean Lee back and be a worse team than last year?
Dez Bryant broke his foot in the opening game, rendering him useless for five weeks. Tony Romo went down in week two, seven weeks out. Romo comes back, plays well enough to beat Miami, then, he loses his composure on Thanksgiving after a short week. Jason Garrett leaves him the game after a three interception first half and being behind by 27 points, only to lose him for the rest of the year. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Certainly, I am in a state of confusion.
Matt Cassel had appropriate time to adjust to the Cowboys’ playbook and his ability/experience should have proven to be the difference between another loss and a badly needed win on the road.
The defense made it presence felt once again as DeMarcus Lawrence recorded two sacks on the first three plays of the game forcing the Redskins into a three and out.
Neither team could move the ball to start the game.
Jason Witten recorded his 1,000 career reception with 8:03 left in the second quarter. The drive stalled and Dan Bailey came in to hit a 38 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Dallas.
Cassel was way off target with his passes in the first half to everyone except Terrance Williams. Cassel seemed to find his timing with Williams.
The Cowboys could not stop their opponent, once again, during the two minute drill. Dustin Hopkins hit a field goal from 45 yards out to tie the game at halftime 3-3.
Darren McFadden fumbled on the first possession of the second half and left the field an injury. It was McFadden’s second fumble of the game. McFadden was not seriously injured; however, he would sit on the bench for the remainder of the third quarter.
Washington’s kicker Hopkins made it 6-3 with a 33 yard field goal following the McFadden turnover.
Cassel continued to target Witten on the next drive. The men covering Dez Bryant were called for two pass interference calls that kept the chains moving. Dan Bailey was needed to tie the game at 6-6 with a 34 yard field goal.
The Cowboys’ defense was up to the challenge and stopped another drive forcing Washington into a 46 yard field goal making it 9-6 Washington.
The defense was forced to weather the storm after Devon Street fumbled the ball after a big completion from Matt Cassel. The Cowboys forced the Redskins to attempt a 43 yard field goal which was NO GOOD.
The Cowboys had momentum. Cassel hit Dez for a huge gain inside the five, but the Redskins defense denied Dallas’ offense the end zone. Dan Bailey tied the game with a 20 yard field goal 9-9.
Sean Lee dominated the next drive by Washington and forced them into a quick punt. Lee had an outstanding game with more than 12 tackles and one sack. Marinelli made his defense play more aggressive and the team blitzed more in this game than they have the entire season up to this point.
With 1:26 left in the game, DeSean Jackson tried to reverse the field on the kickoff and ultimately fumbled the ball. J.J. Wilcox forced the fumble. Dallas punter Chris Jones recovered the ball on the Redskins’ 15 yard line. Darren McFadden punched the ball in from six yards out for the first and only Dallas touchdown. After the Dan Bailey extra point it was 16-9 Dallas with 1:14 left.
Mistakes on special teams’ coverage and a personal foul called on J.J. Wilcox, it was actually #57 rookie linebacker Damien Wilson who committed the foul, gave Washington a chance to get back in the game. What kind of confusion would have cause Damien Wilson to make such a bad decision as to grab the returner’s facemask with less than a minute to go in the game?
Kirk Cousins made the Cowboys pay for the over aggressive play as DeSean Jackson beat Morris Claiborne down the sideline. What looked like a sure victory for Dallas had turned into something completely different. Jackson ran past Claiborne for the reception and the touchdown in the end zone. The game was tied at 16 after Hopkins connected on the extra point.
Rookie sensation Lucky Whitehead returned the following kickoff all the way to the 42 yard line. The Cowboys offense did not lay down and wait for overtime. Instead, Cassel found Dez on a big play to get into Redskin territory. The Cowboys moved the ball to the center of the field. With just nine seconds left, Dan Bailey hit the field goal from 54 yards out making the score 19-16.
Dan Bailey kicked it short on the ensuing kickoff and DeSean Jackson tried some trickery in a last ditch effort. It did not work, again, as the Cowboys special teams were all over it and the game ended as exciting and with all the confusion it always seems to do between these two longtime rivals.
The Cowboys are only one game out of first place with this victory over the Redskins in all the confusion that is the NFC East. It was a great stand by Rod Marinelli’s defense once again, this time the team came together late in the game for the badly need win.
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