Landover, MD – This game saw plenty of back-and-forth action, including a game-winning touchdown by Alfred Morris, who returned to Washington for the first time. The rookie quarterback also made plenty of plays for the Cowboys and got Dez Bryant involved.
However, there was much more to this victory than the headline players. All games have those hidden plays that can be forgotten, but end up playing a huge factor in the outcome. Here are a handful that changed this game.
1. Redskins misfire on early score – With the Cowboys leading 3-0, Washington answered quickly with a drive that nearly resulted in a touchdown. On third down from the Cowboys 38-yard line, Kirk Cousins had Jamison Crowder wide open down the seam of the field but overthrew him, resulting in a Redskins punt. The Cowboys took the ball on their own 6 and marched 94 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
2. Cowboys capitalize after declined penalty– On the Cowboys' second drive of the game, already leading 3-0, the Redskins had stopped Morris on third-and-1, but the Cowboys were flagged for illegal procedure. The 'Skins decided to decline the penalty, giving up a third-and-6 from the 35, and force fourth down. The Cowboys opted to go for the first down and Prescott found Geoff Swaim on a bootleg for a 28-yard play down to the 2. Ezekiel Elliott eventually finished off the drive with his second career touchdown run.
3. Maliek Collins hustle play – On third-and-9 late in the half, the Redskins were driving for a go-ahead score. But after Chris Thompson avoided one tackle over the middle, he was headed for the first-down sticks before rookie defensive tackle Maliek Collins hustled back to make the stop short of the marker. Washington called a timeout to decide what to do, but went for a field goal. If Collins doesn't come back to make the stop, the Redskins likely would've had a couple of shots inside the 20 to take the lead. A potential four-point swing in a four-point win.
4. Short-Hop to Garcon– Late in the third quarter, after the Cowboys unsuccessfully tried an onside kick, the Redskins were moving the ball, looking for a go-ahead touchdown. After first-and-goal from the 9-yard line, followed by a penalty that pushed the ball to the 4, the defense forced a third down. Cousins had Pierre Garcon open at the right corner of the end zone, but short-hopped a throw that likely would've given the Redskins the lead. Instead, the field goal only tied the game. Another four-point swing.
5. Personal Foul and Free's Recovery – Let's do two plays in one here because it happened on the same drive. A personal foul roughing-the-passer penalty on Mason Foster bailed out the Cowboys for 15 yards to prevent a third-and-5. The call was questionable, but Foster did tackle Prescott low, which is technically a penalty. A few plays later, the Cowboys were driving for either a tying field goal or the go-ahead touchdown when Ezekiel Elliott fumbled the ball for the second time in the second half. This time, Doug Free alertly pounced on the ball to save the possession. And the Cowboys capitalized as Morris, who replaced Elliott after the fumble, scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Bonus Play – The 10-second runoff at the end of the game was absolutely crucial. The false start on the Redskins, who were trying to kill the clock, might have trimmed off two more plays. The Redskins were hurrying to the line of scrimmage, but the penalty with 18 seconds left forced a 10-second runoff by rule. Now with only 8 seconds to play, the Redskins had no choice but to throw to the end zone, which was incomplete and used up all of the remaining time.