Today we present the third installment of this 16-part series.
Game 3: Cowboys (1-1) vs. Redskins (2-0)
When: Monday, Sept. 26, 2011
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Storyline: There aren't many times when something else can trump Cowboys-Redskins week, especially on Monday Night Football. And factor in Washington's surprising 2-0 record and that should've been enough right there. But the biggest story leading up to the game was the rib injury of Tony Romo, who was also dealing with a punctured lung. The question was his health and if he could hold up against the Redskins wearing a protective harness on his midsection and taking pain-relieving injections before kickoff.
Game Review: Hope you like field goals because this one had plenty to go around. Fortunately for the Cowboys, their new rookie kicker continued his high from the previous week's game-winning kicks, carrying his team to victory again with his right foot. Bailey made all six field-goal attempts, including a 40-yarder with under two minutes to play. Washington's Graham Gano wasn't bad himself, connecting on three field goals – all in the first half to tie the game 9-9 at the half. Washington picked up the only touchdown on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to Tim Hightower in the third quarter, but just like he did in the first 30 minutes, Bailey drilled three more kicks in the second half and the Cowboys' defense held on late. Anthony Spencer's sack and forced fumble in the final two minutes preserved the win.
Pivotal Play: Dallas trailed 16-15 and were hoping for some Romo magic in the final minutes. After another bad snap by center Phil Costa resulted in an 11-yard loss, the Cowboys faced third-and-21 on their own 30 with 2:20 to play. Romo was flushed out of the pocket but fired a middle-post pass to Dez Bryant, who outfought DeAngelo Hall for the ball to make the catch. Even more importantly, Hall was flagged 15 yards on top of that for yanking on Bryant's facemask. Just like that, it's a 45-yard change in momentum, putting the Cowboys in position to win the game.
Gamebreaker: While the Cowboys never found the end zone, they did get some offensive production from running back Felix Jones, who produced just the second 100-yard rushing game of his career. Jones ran for 115 yards on just 14 carries, which included a 40-yarder in the third quarter that led to another field goal. Another surprise came in the form of Laurent Robinson. In his Cowboys debut, he finished with three catches for 49 yards, some coming on pivotal third-down plays. Dallas was also able to overcome six fumbles, losing just one in the process.
The Fallout: There were a few things we learned from this game, starting with Romo, who was able to shake off the pain and fight through it just enough to make the crucial play at the end. We found out the missed field goal in San Francisco the week earlier was more of the exception rather than the rule. Bailey came back with eight straight field goal makes in a streak that eventually went up to 26. And we found out the Redskins weren't exactly ready to turn the corner like their 2-0 record was suggesting. Washington would play tough until the end, but the Cowboys proved to be slightly better in both of their 2011 meetings.