Don't Forget About These Five Plays: Empty Results On Second-Downs Were Costly

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys had their chances, but ultimately had too many mistakes in a 20-17 overtime loss to the Redskins.

There were some big plays by both teams that will fill up the highlight reels, but all games have those hidden plays that can be forgotten, yet still end up playing a huge factor in the outcome. Here are a handful of plays that changed this game:

Early punt return –One of the biggest keys of the game was seeing how Colt McCoy handled his first start in three years. But when his first snap of the game is in Cowboys' territory, it takes the pressure off. That's what happened when Washington returned a punt 37 yards to the Cowboys' 48. It gave McCoy and his offense favorable field position and the Redskins drove down for an early field goal. 

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Murray's costly fumble – Usually turnovers like this aren't plays that are forgotten, but this one was too big to leave out. The Cowboys were down 3-0 and desperately in need of points when Murray caught a dump-off pass for a 36-yard gain that seemingly set up a first-goal inside the 10. But fighting for extra yardage, Murray was stripped of the ball, losing his fifth fumble of the season. In a game that went to overtime, even a field goal would've been beneficial for the Cowboys.

Big gain for Helu – Leading 7-3 early in the third quarter, Washington was on the move, but two penalties pushed the offense back to a first-and-25 at the Cowboys' 41. Just trying to get back into field goal range, a draw play to Helu netted 18 yards to the Cowboys' 23. Two plays later, Washington was in the end zone to grab a 10-7 lead.

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Weeden's first pass– The first two snaps of the season for Weeden were running plays to Murray. Seems like it should've been at least three straight. After two runs moved the ball 54 yards, it was second-and-goal from the 3. The Cowboys then called for two straight passes from Weeden, and he didn't get the second-down pass high enough to Bryant, who couldn't come up with that catch. Then on third down his pass was on target, but Bryant couldn't hold it. The NFL's leading rusher ripped off two straight runs that had them in position to score, but yet the Cowboys opted for Weeden to throw his first two passes of the year.

Romo flagged for intentional grounding – Although it was more of miscommunication between Romo and Terrance Williams, the Cowboys were flagged for a penalty when the quarterback threw the hot route to the flat for Williams, who instead went up the field on third-and-1 late in regulation. The Cowboys were at the Washington 32, needing about 28-33 yards to get within field-goal range. But with heavy pressure up the middle, Romo fired the pass to no one, forcing a penalty. The Cowboys punted the ball to the Redskins, who played for overtime. But with a timeout in their pocket and needing a third of the field to give Dan Bailey a shot, the Cowboys wasted a golden opportunity.

[embeddedad0](Bonus Play) Romo pass to Murray for short loss – Since the game went overtime, we can have an extra play, too. The Cowboys were down 20-17 and needed a touchdown. After an 8-yard run by Murray, the team had three plays to get 2 yards. You would think the NFL's best back this year could get that, yet he wasn't given a single carry. He did get a pass in the flat that resulted in a 1-yard loss, and the Cowboys then passed two more times, both incomplete, giving the Redskins the win.   

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