ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys' playoff hopes ended weeks ago, but Terrance Williams had every intention of finishing the 2015 season strong Sunday.
In a 34-23 loss to the Washington Redskins, the third-year receiver delivered a career-best performance with 173 yards on a game-high eight catches, surpassing his previous high of 151 yards in his 2013 rookie season.
Williams drew a little extra inspiration from the team message Jason Garrett gave on Saturday: essentially, be your best regardless of circumstance – one of the head coach's most important mantras.
"The message Coach Garrett told us last night just really struck me," Williams said. "No matter what the record says, I'm still going to play to the end and finish it out. Next year is a whole new year, but to the end I have to find ways to get better and continue to cross out my flaws.
"We started this year (and) no matter what, we have to finish. We represent something bigger than this. I took that to heart because I'm playing for a key marquee team in the world."
Williams said he had a similar positive conversation with fellow teammate Dez Bryant, who went on injured reserve earlier in the week with foot and ankle injuries that have bothered him for weeks.
Bryant's absence made Williams the lead receiver for Kellen Moore, who made his second start of the season at quarterback.
"I think whenever you have somebody like Dez that's watching you or that's helping you out," Williams said, "you really try your best not to let him down."
Williams finished the season tied for second on the team with 52 catches for 840 yards and 3 touchdowns.
McFadden Reaches 1,000 Mark
Starting running back Darren McFadden needed only two carries on the Cowboys' open drive to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second time in his eight-year career.
McFadden entered Sunday needing three yards for 1,000. He finished the game with 92 yards on 12 carries, giving him 1,089 for the season – the second-highest total of his career behind his 1,157-yard total with Oakland in 2010. He also carried the ball a career-high 239 times this season.
It appeared McFadden would add to his rushing total in the fourth quarter, but Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon forced a touchback and change of possession when he stripped the ball from McFadden out of bounds in the end zone, nullifying a would-be 23-yard touchdown run.
Overall, though, McFadden stabilized the running back position over the final 11 games. He became the seventh player in Cowboys history to reach the 1,000 mark in a season. It's also the first time in team history that two different players have had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (DeMarco Murray in 2014; McFadden in 2015).
One Moore Opportunity
Kellen Moore's second and final start of the season for an injured Tony Romo was his best statistical performance: 33-of-48 for 435 yards with three touchdowns for a 100.6 quarterback rating – all career highs.
Moore's 435 yards were the most by a Cowboys quarterback in 2015 and marked the first time a Cowboys quarterback passed for 400 yards since Tony Romo threw for 506 against Denver in 2013.
Moore also had the second-most passing yards by a quarterback in his first career home start in NFL history, behind only Green Bay's Matt Flynn (480 yards against Detroit in 2012).
The fourth-year veteran regretted three turnovers against the Redskins, however: two interceptions and a lost fumble, bringing his turnover total to seven in three games. The Redskins scored 14 points off two of those mistakes.
"The turnovers are what cost us and put us in a really bad position to win that at the end," Moore said. "Obviously there were some good things at the end of the day that you can think positively about, but you have to learn and avoid those turnovers.
"Bottom line is that I am really appreciative of the opportunity. A lot of guys wait in my situation and never get the chance to play in an NFL game. I got to play in a few down the stretch. I feel like there were some good things that came out of it. Obviously at the end of the day we didn't win games, so we have to find a way to do that."
With rookie La'el Collins inactive due to a high ankle sprain, Ronald Leary returned to the starting lineup at left guard for the first time since Week 5 against New England.
Collins had started 10 straight games since being promoted to the starting lineup following the Cowboys' mid-October bye week.
Leary left Sunday's game with a concussion in the third quarter, however, and was replaced by Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Witten's Latest Milestone
Jason Witten's touchdown reception in the second quarter was the 60th of his career. He's the third Cowboy and the sixth tight end in NFL history to hit that milestone.
Witten also tied Jerry Smith (60) for fourth on the league's all-time receiving touchdowns list among tight ends.
But the 13-year veteran was more focused on trying to end the season with a victory. The Cowboys' 4-12 record is only the third losing season in Witten's career.
"Every week is hard and you have to go earn it," he said. "That's what we love about this game, and the margin is so small. When you don't achieve that, it's tough – it's really tough. It makes for a long offseason."