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Don’t Forget About These Five: Quick Momentum Changers
LANDOVER, Md. – In every game the Cowboys played this year, they found themselves trailing in every one. So it somewhat makes sense they were able to win exactly half of them.
We will remember this game for some untimely interceptions and key defensive woes in the running game. But there are always key plays that often go unnoticed that played a role in the Redskins’ 28-18 win.
Here are a few plays that changed the course of the game:
(Plays listed in chronological order)
1. Third-down conversion – This actually might be the most important play on this list. The Cowboys had grabbed a 7-0 lead and forced third-and-7 at the Redskins’ 35. Griffin dumped the ball off to Paulsen, who had to fight the ball away from Sterling Moore, who had his hand in there but couldn’t jar the ball loose. However, the play might have been one to challenge, seeing that the ball appeared to hit the ground. Also, as Paulsen was corralling the pass, he was able to get necessary yardage for the first down. A stop there and the Cowboys get it back with a lead and can increase the pressure. Instead, the Redskins scored to tie the game.
2. No points before half – The Cowboys had second-and-10 from the Redskins’ 35 with 1:02 to play. From there, it was too long for Dan Bailey to attempt, especially with that much time left. Had the Cowboys been able to work some time off the clock, maybe a 53-yard attempt would’ve worked. But the Cowboys had one pass play to Witten out of bounds and then two more incompletes, forcing them to punt and keeping the score 7-7 at halftime.
3. Murray’s quick break – The Cowboys came out of halftime and established a running game with Murray, who had runs of three, six and then 21 to the Redskins’ 49 before he briefly took himself out of the game for a breather. But Felix Jones entered and immediately rushed for no gain, putting the Cowboys at second-and-10. Two incomplete passes to Dez Bryant and Dwayne Harris forced yet another punt. But the Cowboys had some momentum that stalled once he left the game.
4. Redskins kickoff return – After cutting the 11-point lead to 21-18, the Cowboys needed a big stop to get the ball back. While they eventually got it, it came after a 48-yard kickoff return by Niles Paul to the Redskins’ 46. It pushed the ball deep into Cowboys’ territory, forcing them to start at their own 15. Better field position might have led to a different play call and not a crucial interception.
5. Hatcher’s penalty – This play probably wasn’t forgotten, but had a huge impact in the outcome. The Redskins just threw an incomplete pass on third-and-7 from the 12 but Jason Hatcher was flagged for hitting Robert Griffin too high, giving Washington a first down. The Redskins would score to put the game away. A field goal there gives the Cowboys the ball with about 2:30 to play and down 24-18.