LANDOVER, Md. -By the end of the fourth quarter the Cowboys didn't have a lot of options left at wide receiver. In fact, their two best receivers were both out.
Miles Austin left the game without a catch in the first half after his ankle was rolled up on from behind. Austin, who struggled with hamstring issues all season, also left the first Redskins' matchup on Thanksgiving Day after getting injured.
The Cowboys endured without Austin, but then in the second half of the game, the man who'd dominated the past seven games for the Cowboys also left the field. Dez Bryant injured his back and needed to be carried to the locker room in the fourth quarter after hauling in four catches for 71 yards.
The Cowboys' offense was left with Dwayne Harris, Kevin Ogletree and Cole Beasley as their primary receivers trying to lead a comeback.
Though Harris was needed as a receiver as well, his contributions as a returner were just as important when chipping into an 11-point deficit.
Harris' signature play came with 6:49 left in the game, when returned a punt along the sideline for a crafty 39 yards before being taken down by a vicious facemask that tacked on another 15 yards.
The return set up a Cowboys touchdown just three plays later, bringing the Cowboys within five points and in need of a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to a field goal. They looked to Harris for the conversion, and he delivered with an over-the-shoulder catch by his fingertips to put the Cowboys within three points.
Harris finished the game with 176 all-purpose yards, but like the two star receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, he needed assistance getting back to the locker room after the game. On the final kickoff return following the Redskins' touchdown that put them up, 28-18, Harris hurt his ankle that led to him being on crutches.
"It just got rolled on," Harris said.
The injury was not the only thing that Harris brushed off. When asked about his timely plays, especially on returns, he deferred any recognition to others.
"I just give a lot of credit to the guys blocking for me," Harris said. "They do a great job every week. All I do is catch and run it."
While there is no doubt the Cowboys were at a disadvantage without their two primary receivers in the fourth quarter, Harris said that the offense was unfazed and the backups were prepared to step into more prominent roles.
"We got guys who can step up," Harris said. "Obviously KO made a big play down there in the red zone. I made a big play on the two-point conversion. We got guys who can step up when those two guys go down. I don't think we lose a step, we just went out there and played."
Cowboys Acknowledge Redskins' Potential
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the Redskins' victory and subsequent playoff berth on Sunday night might have only marked the beginning of what could be years of success for a Washington team with promising young stars.
The Redskins' finished with two legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates, and both have dominated the Cowboys this season. Superstar quarterback Robert Griffin III torched the Cowboys for four touchdowns on Thanksgiving, and while he only threw for 100 yards on Sunday night, he was able to avoid any turnovers.
"He's a good quarterback," said Brandon Carr. "He did a lot of good things today…their offense right now is hot. They're clicking on all cylinders."
But the story on Sunday night was the other rookie, seventh-round draft pick Alfred Morris, who erupted for 200 yards and three touchdowns off 33 carries. The Redskins completely controlled the tempo of the game with their rushing attack, and Morris was the primary reason.
"The running game requires you to play with discipline," Carr said. "You have to play with good technique for the whole sixty minutes. Any lapse in that and it's a big play, as you can see. They're so consistent with the running game. They've got a quarterback who can move just as well as the running back with the ball in his hands so they have a dual option…we just had no answer for them."
With two rookies leading the charge and a game plan executed to perfection, the Redskins seem to have a bright future ahead of them.
"The team that they have, they built it, especially the way (Mike) Shanahan runs some of his plays with RGIII and Morris, they run the ball really well," said DeMarcus Ware. "You have to find some way to stop that running game and make them one-dimensional. Make them throw the ball. If you don't, things happen like Sunday."
Few people doubted that Griffin could eventually lead the Redskins back to prominence, but what's impressive is how quickly he's made everything work.
After the game, owner Jerry Jones talked about the threat that Washington poses moving forward.
"I'm impressed with what the Redskins have put together across the board," Jones said. "They're going to be formidable. As the Cowboys look to the future we have to look where we are within our division. We will look just exactly how to approach that team and the players they got and some of the coaches they got. We've got a big challenge ahead of us."
While the Cowboys were supposed to be a team built for the present, it's the youthful Redskins who'll be facing the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs.
"They're of course in the tournament and we get to sit at home and start thinking about how we get in the tournament," Jones said.
- Tony Romowent to 1-6 in elimination games for his career, including 0-3 in regular season finale games with a chance to make the postseason.
- Tony Romo passed for 218 yards Sunday and upped his career passing yards total to 25,737 and passed Jeff Garcia (25,537) for 60th all-time in NFL history.
- Romo's 37 pass attempts Sunday improved his single-season club record to 648, and his 20 completions improved his season club-record to 425. His 218 yards upped his club record of single-season passing yards to 4,903.
- Romo's touchdown passes today gave him 28 for the season to tie Danny White (1980) for the fourth-most scoring throws in a season in franchise history.
- Romo'stwo touchdown passes today gave him 56 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to place fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:
- Anthony Spencernotched his* *11th sack of the season Sunday to up his single-season career-high.
- On his first catch of the game, Jason Wittenhad his 800th career reception, making him the third tight end and the 26th (Andre Johnson) NFL pass catcher to reach 800 career catches. Among NFL tight ends, Witten joined Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe in the800-catch club.
- Witten reached 800 catches in his 159th game, faster than the previous two (Gonzalez, 171 and Sharpe, 202).
- Witten finished Sunday's game with seven catches for 56 yards. For the season, Witten had 110 catches – an NFL tight end record and second to Michael Irvin's club record of 111.
- Witten's56 yards Sunday gave him 1,039 for the season. It is his fourth career 1,000-yard season to tie Tony Gonzalez for the most by a tight end in NFL history and give him the second-most in franchise history behind Michael Irvin's seven.
- Along with Bryant's 1,000 yards, this season is the sixth time a pair of Cowboys pass catchers reached 1,000 yards in a season. Wittenhas now been a part of four of the Cowboys duos to accomplish the feat.
- Witten's 1,039 yards this season is second in his career to the 1,145 he racked up in 2007. His other 1,000-yard seasons were 1,030 (2009) and 1,002 (2010).