LANDOVER, Md. – It's a game of inches. If it's been said once, it has been said a million times, and it was a relevant statement again Sunday here at FedEx Field.
Moving the ball back 5 yards after a snap infraction penalty on long snapper L.P. Ladouceur proved to be a difference-making penalty. Brett Maher's chance to tie the game was no good when his kick clanged off the left upright as time expired.
That was a huge play in the game, but it won't be on this list.
Like all games, there are several plays that go unnoticed, or could be overlooked. Still, they play a huge role in the eventual outcome. Let's look at five plays that changed the direction of this game.
The "other" Prescot fumble – Arguably the biggest play of the game was Dak Prescott's fumble in the fourth quarter that was recovered for a touchdown. But it wasn't his first fumble of the day. On a fourth-and-1 play in the first quarter, Prescott got a first down when he surged forward, but just before he went to the ground, the ball popped loose and was recovered by the Redskins at the Dallas 44. If the Cowboys keep the ball there, not only do they have a shot to score and perhaps cut into the 7-0 Washington lead, but they at least swing the field position. Instead, the Redskins punted it back and the Cowboys started their next position at their own 15, a theme for poor field position all day.
Chop block negates scoring chance – In the second quarter, the Cowboys still trailed 7-0 but seemingly had the ball in Washington territory after a screen pass to Ezekiel Elliott picked up 6 yards to set up a third-and-4 from the Skins' 47. But a chop-block call on Connor Williams pushed the ball back 15 yards, setting up second-and-25. The Cowboys had no shot of picking up a first down there and had to punt it away, wasting another potential scoring opportunity.
Reed gets loose on third down – In the opening drive of the second half, the Redskins had a third-and-8 at the Cowboys' 36-yard line, which might have been on the outside of kicker Dustin Hopkins' field-goal range. But tight end Jordan Reed got free over the middle for a 27-yard gain down to the 9-yard line, which led to a chip-shot field goal attempt. That gave Washington a 10-7 lead, but without that first down, it's likely the Redskins would've punted the ball and the game would've remained tied.
Two plays before Prescott's crucial fumble – The sequence that led to Prescott getting stripped at the goal line, resulting in a Washington touchdown, needs to be mentioned here. The Cowboys were down 13-10 and facing second-and-4 after Elliott went for 6 yards on a rush to the Cowboys' 20. Instead of sticking with the run, they opted for a pass to Rico Gathers, who couldn't make the catch in double-coverage. That led to third down, which seemed to be converted when Prescott hit Cole Beasley over the middle for enough yardage. But Williams was flagged for holding and the Cowboys were pinned back on third-and-14 from the 10. Prescott was then sacked and fumbled for the Redskins touchdown.
Collins penalty wastes time – The Cowboys trailed 20-10 and needed two scores to get back in the game. With 4:13 to play, Prescott scrambled for 15 yards to the Redskins' 42, and it looked as if they were in business to score quickly. But La'el Collins was called for holding, sending the offense back to their 33. While the Cowboys were eventually able to get a first down thanks to a penalty, they didn't get past the Redskins' 42 until a pass to Allen Hurns with 2:42 remaining. That penalty alone cost the Cowboys about 90 seconds, although they still were able to score a touchdown. Things might have been different had they had at least a minute more on the clock when they got the ball back.