4:25 p.m. ET
51 degrees/ Partly Cloudy/ Windy
Key Coaching Decision #1: (DAL ball, trailing 7-0 / fourth-and-1, DAL 44 / 7:21 Q1)
• Dak Prescott is stopped for no gain and has the ball ripped from his hands by Redskins defensive back D.J. Swearinger. The Cowboys are aggressive here and likely should have punted. The Redskins take over on a short field, but gain little yardage and are forced to punt themselves.
Key Coaching Decision #2: (DAL ball, trailing 20-10 / fourth-and-13, DAL 40 / 3:15 Q4)
• The Cowboys have all three timeouts and the 2-minute warning ahead of them. Their defense was playing exceptionally well. Facing a fourth-and-long from their own side of the field, the Cowboys elect to go for it. They are successful and extend the drive when Dak Prescott finds tight end Blake Jarwin for a 16-yard completion. Dallas would have had a first down anyway, as there was a defensive holding penalty on Josh Norman.
Key Coaching Decision #3: (DAL ball, trailing 20-10 / first-and-10, WAS 44 / 3:05 Q4)
• Dak Prescott finds Allen Hurns for a 7-yard gain. Hurns fumbles and recovers his own fumble. Washington challenges the completed pass ruling and the ruling on the field is upheld. The failed challenge costs Washington a timeout.
• The game was still in question and if Dallas scored here, Washington would want the benefit of having a timeout late in the game. This was on first down. If this challenge was on a fourth down call, it would be understood. But it was early, and it was likely fourth-down territory for Dallas. This matters in this situation.
• Prescott eventually scores on a one-yard touchdown run with 1:41 left.
Key Coaching Decision #4: (WAS ball, leading 20-17 / third-and-9, WAS 26 / 1:26 Q4)
• Washington runs two run plays in this possession to try and waste Dallas’ remaining timeouts, as the Cowboys came into the possession having all three timeouts. Dallas burns the first two timeouts. They don’t have to burn the third here as Alex Smith scrambled and allowed himself to get too close to the sidelines and is shoved out of bounds — allowing the Cowboys to preserve a valuable timeout. Had Smith not gone out of bounds, the Cowboys would have had to use their last timeout to stop the clock. This is something that coaches need to emphasize over and over with the players about late-game situations. We aren’t saying it wasn’t practiced or emphasized in Washington, just that it needs to be discussed in the huddle during the prior timeout as sometimes even veteran quarterbacks have lapses in judgment.
Key Coaching Decision #5: (DAL ball, trailing 20-17 / ALL DOWNS, starting at DAL 36 / 1:09 Q4)
• The Cowboys didn’t play to win the game. They played to get into decent field-goal range for the tie, and it cost them the game. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said it himself:
“The biggest thing after we got ourselves into field-goal range was to try to get up there and clock the ball, preserve that last timeout and then give us the freedom. I think we were trying to get the ball down to 12 seconds. So once we got down to that point, the biggest thing that we wanted to do was maximize the field-goal opportunity and run the ball, make some yards, use the timeout and then kick the game-tying field goal.”
• The Cowboys had 1:09 left on the clock, one timeout and decent field position and they were concerned with just tying the game? The mindset was clearly flawed from the beginning. Dallas had the added benefit of Washington having had to use a timeout due to injury to a defensive back.
• Dallas wasted about 35 seconds between two plays rather than use the last timeout to try to save time in order to have more opportunities to get the ball in more advantageous field-goal position or (gasp) even find the end zone. Dallas’ inattention to game management detail cost them on Sunday.
• The road loss against the Redskins was disappointing, especially after a strong performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars a week earlier. They are now heading into the bye week at 3-4, having lost a chance to take sole possession of first place.
• The Cowboys offensive line was beaten frequently, and yielded four sacks and nine additional hits on Prescott. Left tackle Tyron Smith looks like he has lost a step. He’s no longer a dominant force.
• The Cowboys offense lacked explosive playmakers outside of Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Gallup. Yet, they are inconsistent with the run (Elliott carried the ball 15 times for 33 yards and only caught two passes for 9 yards). Too many of their routes are deep down field. They are best when they throw short-to-intermediate passes and when Prescott is allowed to use his mobility rather than be a drop-back passer.
• The Redskins have won two games in a row after an ugly Monday night loss versus the Saints and are atop the NFC East. They are running the ball strong with Adrian Peterson, who finished with 24 carries and 99 yards, but they need more consistency out of quarterback Alex Smith. They also need to get healthy at the wide receiver spot. They played without Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson, two of their key pass catchers.
• Washington had a chance to put points up at the end of the half as an Alex Smith “Hail Mary” attempt hit wide receiver Michael Floyd in the chest as time expired.
• In the second half of games, the Redskins are having a hard time scoring points. They were tied for fewest in the NFL coming into this game (24 points). They only scored 6 offensive points in the second half here.
• The defense is playing well after the Monday night debacle against the Saints.