ARLINGTON, Texas – For three quarters, at least, the Cowboys' defense picked up where it left off in September against the Washington Redskins.
In a Week 2 victory, the defense allowed only six points on three straight red zone trips to help the Cowboys overcome a fourth-quarter deficit.
On Thanksgiving, Washington entered halftime with only six points on two red zone trips, along with two missed field goals.
But Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense got rolling in the fourth quarter with three straight touchdown drives and nearly delivered a late comeback of their own in an eventual 31-26 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
Afterward, Cowboys defenders were excited about the team's 10th straight victory but felt their group could have done more.
"We made a couple key stops and we got ahead of them on the scoreboard, put them in some positions where we could play a little bit more aggressive," defensive end David Irving said. "But at the end of the day, as everyone's seen, we didn't do good enough. We have to do better in the pass rush, we have to do better covering. We'll just come back to work and continue to improve."
Already without starting cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) and safety Barry Church (forearm) Thursday, two more key defenders left the game and didn't return due to injury: safety J.J. Wilcox (thigh) and linebacker Justin Durant (hamstring).
The Redskins entered the game with the third-most pass plays of 20 yards or more this season (41). They added seven more Thursday, including DeSean Jackson's 67-yard touchdown on the second drive of the fourth quarter.
Jackson led all receivers with 118 yards, and Cousins passed for the most yards against the Cowboys in a game this season (449), completing 41 of 53 passes for a 120.7 rating.
"We've got to clean some things up," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "You play to win the game and it's hard to win – any given Sunday in this league. But we know our standards on the defense and lately we haven't been playing to our standards. This is a gut-check time for us to look ourselves in the mirror – don't look at the record or anything, just look at our performance and how we've been going out there and playing. We want to get takeaways. We want to get back to just being aggressive and being physical on defense."
But head coach Jason Garrett thought the defense did a good job against the Redskins' running game, holding starter Rob Kelley to 37 yards on 14 carries and forcing their offense into a pass-first mode.
"If you force a team to throw it 53 times in the game, typically you're going to have success," Garrett said. "We played from ahead a lot in this game. We were up by two scores. They were going to throw the ball. We were going to force them to earn it.
"Unfortunately, on the one play to DeSean Jackson, that wasn't the plan, obviously. We were doing a good job up to that point of forcing them to throw underneath, rally and tackle, rally and tackle, and you're bleeding the clock when you're ahead like that. They were going to have those kinds of drives.
"Minus that one big play that they made, we played the right way."