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Don't Forget These 5: Trio of Third-Down Miscues


ARLINGTON, Texas – The storylines for this game are endless, from the tradition of this rivalry, to the history of Thanksgiving Day, to the emotions the Cowboys were dealing with all week, to the fact this game was for first place in the division.

And in between the touchdowns, turnovers and questionable play-calls, there were a handful of other plays that played a big factor in the outcome. Here are five not to forget:

Dalton's miss, Martin injured – On a key third-down play on the Cowboys' first drive, Andy Dalton had Amari Cooper breaking away on a deep slant near the goal line, but he just missed him for an incompletion. To make matters worse, Zack Martin suffered a calf injury on that play and did not return. The injury proved to be a costly blow to an offensive line that has been banged up all season, especially at tackle. The Cowboys had to kick a field goal, and lost another tackle on the same play.

Lewis flagged for illegal contact – On Washington's first scoring drive, the Cowboys were flagged for a pair of defensive penalties on third down. The second one was highly questionable as Jourdan Lewis was flagged for illegal contact in the middle of the field as quarterback Alex Smith was dancing around the pocket. The penalty negated an incomplete pass and kept Washington's offense on the field. Moments later, they scored to grab a 7-3 lead.

Lamb stopped for no gain – Yeah, we all remember the fourth-down incomplete pass from the Cowboys' 34-yard line in the second quarter. But what about the play before on third down? The Cowboys ran a jet sweep pass to CeeDee Lamb who couldn't get around the corner before being swallowed up by a stingy Washington defense. That was the play that led to the Cowboys' decision on fourth down, and it also showed the play-caller they couldn't run the ball for a yard, so they opted to pass. Seems like the play to Lamb is designed to get at least 5 or 6 yards and it didn't get 1.  

Zeke coughs it up after halftime – Let's not forget the Cowboys trailed just 17-13 to open the third quarter. The reason most teams defer at the opening coin toss is for this very reason – to get the ball in the third quarter and go score. And, in this case, regain the lead. But on the second play of the half, Ezekiel Elliott fumbled the ball as he was diving for first-down yardage. Zeke was likely going to be short anyway so was setting up third-and-short. But the fumble, which was overturned thanks to a Washington challenge, led to a field goal. Instead of driving for a score, the Cowboys found themselves immediately down by seven.

CeeDee can't grab TD catch – The Cowboys looked as if they would tie the game when Jaylon Smith picked off a pass and was headed towards the end zone. But after he was caught at the 4-yard line, the Cowboys actually went backwards with two plays that netted a 6-yard loss. On third down, it seemed as if they were going to score anyway when Dalton found Lamb in the end zone. But the rookie receiver, who had a great catch for a touchdown just last Sunday, couldn't haul in this throw, and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal – and would never score again.

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