ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys fell behind by 21 points in the first quarter before finally making a game of it in the second quarter. In the end, though, the turnovers by the Cowboys doomed them from getting over the hump, falling to Washington 34-23 in the season finale.
But like all games, there were a handful of plays that might go unnoticed, yet changed the outcome. Let's take a closer look at five that affected this game.
Whitehead's early fair catch –After the Cowboys held Washington to a punt on the first drive of the game, rookie Lucky Whitehead likely could've let the ball go behind him and into the end zone. Instead, Whitehead fair caught the punt at the Dallas 7-yard line. From there, the Cowboys went three-and-out, gaining just 2 yards in the process and were forced to punt themselves. The Redskins started their next drive at the Cowboys' 49-yard line and scored the first touchdown in just two plays.
Moore sacked on a fake reverse – Trailing 7-0, the Cowboys were trying to get on the move on their third offensive possession. After two first downs, including a 19-yard reception by Terrance Williams to midfield, the Cowboys called for a fake reverse run and Moore was supposed to keep the ball to throw it downfield. But he never got that far and was sacked for an 8-yard loss. On third-and-14, Moore was then picked off over the middle and the Redskins tacked on to their lead three plays later.
Cousins finds Crowder on third down – Trailing 21-0, the Cowboys were looking for a spark early in the second quarter and had Washington back on third-and-5 from its own 28-yard line. Cousins found Jamison Crowder for a 28-yard gain to extend the drive and put Washington in position to score. Instead of the Cowboys getting off the field, they allowed three more points to fall behind 24-0.
Crowder picks up third-and-long – One play after Anthony Hitchens nearly picked off a deflected pass over the middle, the Redskins were in a third-and-17 at their own 27. The Cowboys played a prevent defense, but allowed Crowder to catch a bubble screen and run 24 yards for a first down. The Redskins kept the drive alive and added another field goal for a 27-14 lead.
McFadden's fumble for a touchback – Turnovers this costly usually don't make the list, but this one was too demoralizing for the Cowboys, and basically symbolized their entire season. McFadden broke free for an apparent touchdown run, but was stripped at the 3-yard line and the ball bounced into and then out of the end zone for a touchback. The score would've cut the lead to 34-23 with 11:03 to play. The Cowboys eventually scored again, but had McFadden found the end zone, there could've been plenty of time to kick off to Washington with four minutes to play and two timeouts, and then get the ball back for a chance to win.