Worst composure: Zach Brown has been the Redskins’ most consistent player on defense this season, but he lost his cool early in the fourth quarter when he smacked Keith Smith in the face mask after the two butted heads after a play. Brown was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness; the Cowboys kicked a 37-yard field goal four plays later to take a 26-13 lead on their 17th, 18th and 19th consecutive points after the blocked field goal.
Best hope: Facing fourth and five at their 47-yard line on their next drive, the Redskins picked up a first down on a completion to Chris Thompson, who had eight catches for 76 yards. Cowboys rookie Taco Charlton dropped what would’ve been an impressive interception on Cousins’s next throw, and an apparent interception by Jaylen Smith later in the drive was ruled an incompletion upon replay review to keep Washington’s slim comeback hopes alive.
Best score: After a pass interference penalty in the end zone on a pass intended for Josh Doctson gave the Redskins a first and goal from the 1-yard line, Cousins connected with Doctson for a touchdown that cut the Cowboys’ lead to 26-19 with 4:39 to play. Rose missed the extra point.
Best play call: The Cowboys burned nearly four minutes off the clock on their next drive, picking up a first down on third and four with a five-yard completion to Dez Bryant.
Worst hope: Cousins and the offense took over at their 12-yard line with 54 seconds remaining and no timeouts, a daunting task for any quarterback in any conditions. The dagger came quickly, with an interception return for a touchdown by Byron Jones off a tipped pass by David Irving on the second play of the drive.
Worst offense: Before Doctson’s touchdown grab, the wide receiver’s only catch of the game, the Redskins’ first three possessions of the second half went like this: fumble, three-and-out and three-and-out, with a drive that never got started because of a fumbled kickoff mixed in.
Worst turnovers: The Redskins’ makeshift offensive line played well in the first half, allowing only two sacks by Irving and not committing a single penalty. The third sack of Cousins, on Washington’s opening drive of the second half, was the charm for the Dallas D, resulting in a fumble that gave the Cowboys possession at the Redskins 45. Dallas turned the turnover into a 36-yard field goal by Mike Nugent and a 17-13 lead. Thompson fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Cowboys recovered at the Washington 26.
Best stand: Greg Manusky’s defense again stood strong, limiting the damage from Thompson’s turnover by holding the Cowboys to another Nugent field goal. Dallas’s fifth holding penalty of the afternoon nullified an Elliott touchdown run on first down, and Ryan Kerrigan sacked Dak Prescott on the next play. After turnovers on consecutive touches, the Redskins trailed 20-13, which was a heck of a lot more manageable to overcome than 28-13.
Worst are you kidding me?: And then there was one regular starter on Washington’s offensive line. Arie Kouandjio, who was signed off the Ravens’ practice squad on Saturday, replaced Shawn Lauvao late in the third quarter after Lauvao suffered a stinger.
Worst running game: It came as no surprise that Washington struggled to run the ball. Rob Kelley led the way with 19 yards on eight carries, as the Redskins were limited to 49 yards rushing as a team.
Worst drop: One play after Lauvao was helped off the field, Doctson dropped a deep pass on third down. It wasn’t an easy play for the second-year pro, but it’s the type of catch NFL receivers, especially those drafted in the first round, are expected to make. Thanks to an illegal touching penalty on Josh Holsey on Tress Way’s ensuing punt, the Cowboys started their next drive with excellent field position and added yet another field goal to take a 23-13 lead.
Worst no, seriously, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?: T.J. Clemmings, who was starting at left tackle for the injured Trent Williams, was hurt on Doctson’s touchdown. Put Morgan Moses in bubble wrap.
Worst weather: When it rains, it pours. That’s one way to describe the Redskins’ injury situation of late and also the conditions Sunday in Landover. It was raining at the start of the game and it only got worse, with the wind picking up in the second half.
Best hold: With the Redskins driving and looking to add to their 10-7 lead in the second quarter, Cousins threw a little too high for 6-foot-4 wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., who was wide open along the sideline. Pryor, who finished without a catch, came down with the ball, but he couldn’t get both feet in bounds, forcing the Redskins to settle for a 42-yard field goal. Rose banged it through after Way somehow managed to handle a bad snap of a soggy football in a driving rain. Washington’s next bad snap didn’t end so well.
Best effort: Moses, who qualifies as one of the Redskins’ few remaining healthy offensive linemen despite playing on two bad ankles, booked it 80 yards in pursuit of Scandrick after the blocked field goal. Respect.
Best QBs: Cousins and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t have many issues slinging a wet ball. Cousins finished 26 of 39 for 263 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while Prescott was 14 of 22 for 143 yards.
Best response: Neither team’s defense offered much resistance in the first quarter. The Redskins answered a 75-yard touchdown drive by the Cowboys with a 75-yard touchdown drive of their own, and regained the lead on a one-yard run by Rob Kelley less than 10 minutes into the game. The big play, non-penalty edition, of the drive was Cousins’s 41-yard pass to Jamison Crowder, who had 36 yards receiving in his previous three games combined. Crowder had five catches for 88 yards in the first half Sunday and finished with a game-high nine catches for 123 yards.
Worst hit: Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson can probably expect a package and some stern words from the league office this week after his brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on Cousins drew a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty earlier in the Redskins’ first touchdown drive.
Worst sight: Niles Paul appeared woozy as he was helped off the field after being involved in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee on Kelley’s touchdown run. The Redskins’ tight end, part-time fullback and special teams ace was ruled out for the game with a concussion. After his two-touchdown game last week, fellow tight end Jordan Reed had one catch for five yards in the first half before leaving with a hamstring injury.
Best penalty: A holding penalty on Jason Witten negated Dez Bryant’s 23-yard catch-and-run on third down on the Cowboys’ next drive, which eventually stalled at the Washington 31-yard line. Nugent, who was signed to replace the injured Dan Bailey last week, missed his first field goal attempt with the Cowboys wide left and the Redskins maintained a 10-7 lead.
Best confidence: The Cowboys entered the game with the second-most fourth down attempts (11) in the NFL this season and Coach Jason Garrett elected to leave his offense on the field on fourth and one from the Dallas 48-yard line in the first quarter. Elliott, who had 33 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns, picked up the first down with ease.
Best start: The normally sure-handed Elliott fumbled for the first time this season after taking a hit from Matt Ioannidis on the Cowboys’ first play from scrimmage and Josh Norman recovered at the Dallas 29-yard line. You couldn’t have scripted a much better start for the Redskins.
Worst capitalizing: Washington failed to take full advantage of Elliott’s gift, as Cousins threw short of the sticks on third and six and the Redskins settled for a 38-yard field goal by Rose.
Best streak: The Redskins have now scored on their opening drive in six consecutive games. It’s the first time they’ve done that since the merger.
Worst defense: It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to answer, as they marched 75 yards on five plays in 2:41. Prescott completed three passes to three receivers not named Bryant for 59 yards and Elliott capped the drive by racing untouched from 13 yards out to give Dallas an early 7-3 lead.
Worst experience: You needed a program — or an obsessively deep knowledge of rookie offensive linemen — to identify the guys tasked with keeping Cousins upright and creating running room for Rob Kelley on Sunday. The Redskins were without regular starters Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Spencer Long because of injury. T.J. Clemmings and first-year pros Chase Roullier and Tyler Catalina got the nod in their stead.
Best idea: Former Hog Joe Jacoby offered to suit up on alumni homecoming weekend. Perhaps one more appearance at 58 years old would finally convince the Hall of Fame selection committee that Jacoby is worthy of a spot in Canton.
Worst surprise: The Redskins knew they would be shorthanded along the offensive line, but they got good news earlier in the week when doctors cleared cornerback Josh Norman to return from a rib injury. On Sunday, cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was expected to start opposite Norman, was declared inactive with a knee injury
Worst streak: The Redskins fell to 0-3 against NFC East foes this year and have now lost five straight games to the Cowboys at home since their 28-18 win to clinch the NFC East title in the final week of the 2012 regular season.