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Redskins Let Lead Slip Away, Fall 18-16

Posted Sep 26, 2011

The Redskins led most of the second half on Monday night and kept forcing the Cowboys to settle for field goals. It turned out to be one field goal too many, though.


COWBOYS 18, REDSKINS 16: SCORING SUMMARY
Team Quarter Play Score
Redskins 1 Gano 46-yard field goal Redskins 3-0
Cowboys 1 Bailey 41-yard field goal Tie, 3-3
Redskins 1 Gano 27-yard field goal Redskins 6-3
Cowboys 2 Bailey 27-yard field goal Tie, 6-6
Cowboys 2 Bailey 32-yard field goal Cowboys 9-6
Redskins 2 Gano 50-yard field goal Tie, 9-9
Redskins 3 Hightower 1-yard pass from Grossman (Gano Kick) Redskins 16-9
Cowboys 3 Bailey 41-yard field goal Redskins 16-12
Cowboys 3 Bailye 23-yard field goal Redskins 16-15
Cowboys 3 Bailey 20-yard field goal Cowboys 18-16

Redskins.com’s Gary Fitzgerald takes a closer look at Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField:

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

It’s always like this vs. Dallas. Redskins and Cowboys in an intense, taut, hard-fought matchup. Under the lights, in prime time, plenty on the line even in an early season NFC East matchup.

Early on, the two rivals exchanged field goals at Cowboys Stadium. In the third quarter, the Redskins pulled ahead by seven points after Tim Hightower caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman. The Cowboys? More field goals. They chipped away, they chipped away, and kicker Dan Bailey strung together enough field goals to give the Cowboys an 18-16 victory.

Some will call this a bad loss. It's a tough one, certainly. The Redskins had their opportunities to seal the win, and they failed to take advantage of a banged-up Cowboys offense reeling from injuries.

And yet, the feeling here is that the mistakes are correctable. If it’s true that NFL games are won and lost on a handful of plays, then Monday night’s game is a prime example. It only hurts because it’s Dallas.

REVEALING MOMENT

In the first two weeks of the season, the Redskins were proud of how they were able to win games they would have lost in years past. It seemed like they were headed in that direction again in the final two minutes of Monday night’s game. At the 43-yard line, Rex Grossman dropped back to pass and rolled right, waiting for Santana Moss to get open. He seemed to have no awareness that blitzing linebacker Anthony Spencer was bearing down on him. Spencer stripped him of the ball. The fumble was recovered by linebacker Sean Lee, ending the Redskins’ last chance for their first win at Cowboys Stadium.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Things can change fast in an NFL game. A botched center-quarterback exchange left Dallas with a 3rd-and-21 at the 30-yard line. Quarterback Tony Romo dropped back and rolled right avoid an all-out blitz. He saw wide receiver Dez Bryant streaking downfield, one-on-one with DeAngelo Hall. Romo threw, and Bryant pulled the ball in front of Hall, who was subsequently charged with a 15-yard face-mask penalty on the tackle. All of a sudden, the Cowboys had the ball at the Redskins’ 25-yard line. After three run plays, Dan Bailey nailed a 40-yarder to give the Cowboys the 18-16 lead.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Santana Moss has been a thorn in the Cowboys’ side for years and he turned in another strong showing on Monday night, catching five passes for a team-best 70 yards. For the third week in a row, Moss was Rex Grossman’s first pass completion of the night, a 16-yarder across the middle. He grabbed a 15-yard pass on 3rd-and-7 late in the first half, setting up a Redskins field goal. And in the third quarter, Moss caught a 36-yard pass running a post pattern downfield. The big play helped set up the game’s only touchdown.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

-- After trading field goals in a 9-9 first half, the Redskins finally reached the end zone midway through the third quarter. On 1st-and-goal at the Cowboys 1-yard line, the Redskins lined up with Tim Hightower and Mike Sellers in I-formation in the backfield. Rex Grossman faked a handoff to Hightower and the Cowboys’ defenders converged on the line. Sellers piled into the line as Hightower broke away. He was uncovered in the right side of the end zone and Grossman lofted an easy pass to him. He caught it at the 1-yard line and skipped into the end zone, giving the Redskins a 16-9 lead.

-- With the Redskins clinging to a 16-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Redskins’ defense produced a great red zone stand. It started with linebacker Rob Jackson sacking Tony Romo for an 8-yard loss at the Redskins’ 12-yard line. The play was nullified, though, due to defensive holding before the sack. The Cowboys had a 1st-and-goal at the 2-yard line. First Stephen Bowen and London Fletcher tackled running back Tashard Choice for a 3-yard loss. Then Romo tossed two incomplete passes, including one that could have been a pick six for DeAngelo Hall if he had made a move on the ball sooner. The defensive stand forced the Cowboys to settle for a 23-yard field goal.

-- LaRon Landry saw his first regular season action since Nov. 15, 2010, starting at strong safety. He made an impact, helping tackle running back Felix Jones on the game’s first play. Late in the first quarter, Landry forced a fumble by Jones that was scooped up by Josh Wilson. The turnover set up the Redskins’ second field goal, a 27-yard attempt by Graham Gano. In the second quarter, Landry leveled a punishing hit on wide receiver Laurent Robinson, jarring the ball loose for an incompletion.

-- Speaking of Graham Gano, he has been solid since missing his first regular season kick in Week 1. Along with his 27-yarder, he connected on a 46-yard field goal to put the Redskins on the scoreboard early in the first quarter. At the end of the first half, Gano recorded a career-long 50-yarder. All of his attempts appeared accurate, too – right down the middle.

-- The Redskins’ defense used a variety of coverages on tight end Jason Witten to minimize his impact on the game. It worked in the first half. One play it was cornerback Kevin Barnes lined up across from Witten. Next time it was linebacker Rocky McIntosh. Later it was linebacker London Fletcher who helped break up a pass to the Pro Bowl tight end. Witten had two catches for seven yards in the first half, but finished with six catches for 60 yards. His biggest play was a 23-yarder in which he appeared to beat Ryan Kerrigan in coverage.

-- The 3rd-and-21 play aside, the Redskins’ defense was impressive on third downs most of the game. In the first half, the Cowboys were 0-for-5 – they didn’t convert a third down until the third quarter. Some of it could be attributed to curious play-calling by Dallas head coach Jason Garrett, especially in the red zone. On a 3rd-and-6 at the Redskins’ 17-yard line in the first half, Rocky McIntosh tackled Tashard Choice for a 3-yard run. And the Cowboys settled for another field goal.

-- On another third down red zone play, at the Redskins’ 9-yard line, linebackers Rocky McIntosh, London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo collapsed the line of scrimmage and stopped fullback Tony Fiammatta for no gain. And the Cowboys settled for another field goal. Overall, the Redskins’ defense stymied the Cowboys all three times they entered the red zone on Monday night.

WHAT WENT WRONG

-- Rex Grossman turned in an inconsistent performance. He led the offense on four long scoring drives and overall he completed 22-of-37 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown. He threw a bad interception in the first half in which he admitted he did not see linebacker Sean Lee underneath in the coverage. And he did not seem to have much awareness of the hard-charging Anthony Spencer bearing down on him on his game-ending fumble.

-- After the Redskins went ahead 16-9 on Tim Hightower’s 1-yard touchdown catch, the Redskins seemed to abandon the run. They weren’t very successful with it to begin with, compiling 65 yards and averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Roy Helu had two fourth quarter runs, otherwise offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called pass plays. In some instances, the aggressiveness seemed to work, particularly on a screen pass to Helu that picked up 14 yards. Each time the drives stalled and the Redskins were unable to take time off the clock, giving the Cowboys time to chip away – and eventually overcome – the Redskins seven-point lead.

-- The Redskins’ run defense was impressive in the first half, allowing just 20 yards by Felix Jones and 31 yards overall. Jones began to pick up steam against the Redskins in the second half, though. He reeled off runs of 29 yards and 40 yards to help set up Cowboys field goals. Jones finished with a game-high 115 yards on just 14 carries. (He also caught three passes for 40 yards.)

-- DeMarcus Ware was relatively quiet most of the game. He was handled by Trent Williams and Jammal Brown, for the most part. Until late in the fourth quarter. Clinging to a 1-point lead, the Redskins were staying aggressive on offense and driving downfield. On second down, Ware beat Brown easily and leveled Rex Grossman for a sack and an 8-yard loss. The Redskins were forced to punt one play later, giving the ball back to the Cowboys who subsequently went on their game-winning drive.

-- Tough night for right tackle Jammal Brown. In addition to the sack yielded against DeMarcus Ware, Brown also was beaten by Anthony Spencer on the Redskins' last offensive play in which he stripped Rex Grossman of the ball.

-- The Redskins were in position for a 36-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. Holder Sav Rocca bobbled the snap, though. He got it down just in time for Graham Gano to kick it, but it was easily blocked by Cowboys’ Gerald Sensabaugh.

UNSUNG HERO

The bobbled field goal snap aside, Sav Rocca had a strong game as the Redskins’ punter. He had five punts and averaged 46.4 yards and a 44.4 net average. He placed three punts inside the 20 and leads the NFL in that category with nine. Twice he boomed kicks from Redskins territory that set the Cowboys back and forced them into long drives just to get into scoring range.

STATS GEEK

The Redskins lost time of possession for the first time this season. They had the ball for 28:24 while the Cowboys had it for 31:36. The Redskins had entered the game leading the NFL in that category and they had a three-minute advantage at halftime, but the Cowboys were able to establish the run game better than the Redskins in the second half, making up the difference.

QUOTE SHEET

“Their defense just made more big plays. They came up with a couple more plays than we did. We really needed to make one more play defensively to win this ballgame but we didn’t.” – London Fletcher

INJURY REPORT

The Redskins appeared to emerge from the game without any serious injuries. Anthony Armstrong was sidelined by a hamstring injury in the first half. Brian Orakpo was slowed by cramps but returned to the game. LaRon Landry did not appear to have any setbacks from his hamstring injury.

WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT

Fullback Darrel Young sat out the game due to a hamstring injury. Fred started in Young’s place and veteran Mike Sellers saw action as well. Early in the first quarter, Chris Cooley even lined up at fullback and logged his first career rushes. Also inactive for the Redskins were wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Leonard Hankerson, safety DeJon Gomes, linebacker Markus White, offensive lineman Willie Smith and defensive lineman Darrion Scott. Gomes sat out the game with a hamstring injury as well.

WHAT’S NEXT

After a short week of preparation due to Monday Night Football, the Redskins travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome next Sunday. Last year, the Redskins lost to the Rams 30-16 in St. Louis. The Redskins are 21-9-1 all-time in the regular season against the Rams and 2-2 in the postseason. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe returns to St. Louis for the first time since he was released by the Rams last offseason. The game is also a homecoming for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who coached in St. Louis from 2006-08.

LAST WORD

The Redskins get another crack at the Cowboys in mid-November. Games in November and December are more critical than games in September. Obviously it’s important that the Redskins learn from their mistakes – team leaders can’t let things snowball now that adversity has arrived. So put this loss and the untimely errors aside and focus on next Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. There is still plenty to like about this team and its future.