LANDOVER, Md. A near-capacity crowd packed FedEx Field on Sunday, hoping for a rivalry victory to redeem a trying season. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys gave those fans one more punch to the gut in a year that’s been full of them.
The Redskins were unable to overcome the mistakes and disorganization that has plagued the team all year long, though the Cowboys nearly matched Washington gaffe for gaffe in a 24-23 victory.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw the game-winning touchdown with 1:08 remaining, buying himself time on fourth-and-goal and finding an open DeMarco Murray after the play broke down on the Redskins end.
“That’s what makes a mobile quarterback so dangerous,” Washington cornerback Josh Wilson said. “When they get out of the pocket, that isn’t a designated play. You draw that stuff in the dirt.”
Linebacker Perry Riley wasn’t feeling as charitable, citing defensive lapses by the Redskins.
“When you come into the game, you expect everybody to have their assignments down,” he said. “That wasn’t the case on the last drive, and the result is a loss.”
The Redskins offense was also caught off-guard, and quarterback Kirk Cousins threw the ball into empty space twice to end the game.
Cousins didn’t have a time out on the decisive fourth-down play, and had to snap the ball before his receivers were properly aligned to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.
It all came after a 23-14 lead that offered the fans a rare opportunity to cheer.
“We felt like we were in a good spot, but it’s a cruel game,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said.
In the third quarter, Washington’s DeAngelo Hall intercepted Romo, and Ryan Kerrigan recorded a drive-ending sack that got the stadium shaking like it did during last season’s rivalry victory.
Morgan and Hall’s turnovers each turned into touchdowns, though coach Mike Shanahan did not elect to go for a two-point conversion after either, leaving the margin at six points.
Washington got an assist after Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox drew a late hit personal foul after making a key third-down stop, and Kai Forbath converted the field goal that pushed the margin to 23-14, the Skins high-water mark.
Dallas came back with a 8 minute, 37 second drive that ended with a field goal. Romo finished the drive with what appeared to be an ankle injury – team owner Jerry Jones said after the game Romo has battled a bad back all week.
The quarterback stayed on for the game-winning drive, though, which included a 51-yard completion to receiver Terrance Williams after Wilson slipped on the wet grass.
Washington made three goal-line stops, pushing running back DeMarco Murray back to the 10-yard line on third down, but Romo scrambled for a few seconds and connected with Murray on the game winner on fourth down.
“Give Romo credit, he bought time,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “I love this team and I love the way we fought today. We just came up a little bit short.”
The game was supposed to be a triumphant sendoff for Fletcher, who announced he’s likely retiring at the end of the season. However, it was spoiled in the final minutes by the Cowboys comeback.
“We really wanted to win for him, that was our (rallying cry) all week,” Cofield said. “So this was disappointing.”
Fletcher took a lap around FedEx Field after the game, saluting the fans and greeting his children.
The game didn’t turn out the way he was hoping, though, an echo of an equally trying season for the Redskins.