After screaming at their television screens for 59 minutes and 51 seconds Monday night, Dallas Cowboy fans were finally rewarded with something to cheer about when kicker Dan Bailey nailed a 54-yard field goal to give his beleaguered team a much needed 19-16 victory over their bitter rivals, the Washington Redskins.
Bailey’s fourth field goal of the game had capped a bewildering flurry of 17 points in the final 1:15. The victory put the 4-8 Cowboys just one game back from division leaders New York, Philadelphia and Washington in what has become the most confusing conference in professional football. The NFL East has never been through this kind of losing slump where every team finds new ways to lose. Fortunately for Dallas, it’s happening now.
The opening quarter of this contest laid the foundation for the rest of the game. The first nine possessions resulted in eight punts, a turnover and a combined four first downs and only a total of 68 yards of offense. This game was so boring, the television announcers in the first half focused on the fact Dallas had a power outage on the sidelines nullifying the use of their PC tablets.
This was the first time in five years that a backup quarterback has led the Cowboys to a victory. That statement in itself is pathetic enough. Matt Cassel’s best days are definitely behind him. His decision making skills and overall football savvy are non-existent. His play calling was so bad, the Redskins often stacked between seven and ten men on the line to stuff the run on short yardage situations. And when Cassel did attempt to pass the ball, it was batted down.
If you were a Washington fan, it was painfully obvious that the officiating in this game was pretty awful, particularly in the second quarter. There was the phantom crack back block called against the ‘Skins that cost them dearly when they were on the Dallas 34. Later on as the half wore down, Redskin receiver Pierre Garcon was called for pass interference for basically arm jostling with corner Byron Jones. Both penalties negated drives that could have led to TD’s. Instead they became field goals and both teams ended up tied at 6 going into the second half.
Dez Bryant wouldn’t appear on the radar screen until the fourth quarter when he caught a diving 42-yard pass to the Redskins three-yard line with 6:43 to go in the game. Cassel’s quick slant pass to Bryant was knocked down on the next play. Washington then put nine defenders on the line and dared the Dallas QB to pass. He didn’t. Two running plays were easily stuffed forcing Dan Bailey to kick a field goal to tie the game at 9.
Matt Cassel’s complete ineptitude as a leader was salvaged by the Redskins DeSean Jackson who thought he could pull a Houdini act and escape the Dallas special teams when the Cowboys punted the ball with less than two minutes left in the game. He fielded the ball at the 30 and managed to run backwards 20 yards before he started up the field. The Cowboys special team players nailed him at the 15 and caused a fumble that was recovered by punter, Chris Jones.
With 1:26 seconds left in the game, the score was knotted at 9 apiece with Dallas 15 yards away from the end zone and the best field goal kicker in the NFL. All the offense had to do was run the ball and force Washington to use its two time outs. The team would kick a field goal and the game was over. That’s what a normal football team in any other division of the NFL would do. Not in the East however. Instead, running back Darren McFadden, who had fumbled the ball twice, had his longest rush from scrimmage – nine yards – and went out of bounds stopping the clock at the Washington 6. The next play he thought to himself, “Forget the first down, I’m just going to score.” And score is exactly what McFadden did.
Honestly, you can’t fault the Dallas running back from scoring. He burst through the line and his momentum carried him into the end zone. Also, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins had been his own worst enemy throughout the game and didn’t seem to pose much danger throwing the ball. When Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards to the Cowboys 42 with over a minute left in the game, you just felt the old Cousins was gone and a new version was about to emerge. Thirty seconds after Dallas scored the Washington quarterback threw a beautiful pass 28-yard pass to Jackson to tie the score.
Fortunately there was 44 seconds left in the game.
Lucky Whitehead came through for the Cowboys and returned the kickoff 46 yards to the Cowboys 44. Cassel completed two passes to Bryant for 20 yards. That distance is all Dan Bailey would need as he kicked the ball through the uprights to give Dallas an improbable victory.
Cowboy Notes – It is time to start giving the Cowboys defense some kudos. They have problems forcing turnovers, but in three of their four last games, they have only given up one touchdown. The Redskins’ only TD drive was aided by a long kickoff return and a face-mask penalty. The Carolina Panthers scored just one offensive touchdown in their 33-14 Thanksgiving win. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored their only touchdown with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. … Head coach Jason Garret said the lack of technology was a challenge for his team in the first half because “you get so used to looking at those (tablets) and verifying your thoughts.” Feel free to laugh … Tight end Jason Witten finally became the tenth member of the 1000 reception club … All year long, the Dallas sports media has maligned the Cowboys defense and blamed it for many of the team’s losses. The opposite is true. This was the sixth time in 12 games where the defense held its opponents to under 300 total yards. … Towards the end of the first half when a futile Dallas drive ended with a field goal, the Cowboys newly minted $70 million dollar man, Dez Bryant, finally had enough of Matt Cassel’s inability to look his way and exploded on him when they returned to the sidelines. On a third and four from the Washington 15, Brant was open over the middle on a slant play streaking toward the goal line. Cassel opted to dump the ball off to Cole Beasley who failed to get a first down. Bryant ripped chin strap off and started yelling at Cassel as they returned to the sideline. He continued his tirade while taking his cleats off and had to have coaches and players finally calm him down.
– David Huff
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