Here are four takeaways from the Redskins’ 31-23 loss to the Cowboys on Thursday at AT&T Stadium.
Too many turnovers: It’s generally better to give than to receive, but unfortunately for Colt McCoy and the Redskins, that sentiment doesn’t apply to football games. Making his first start since 2014 in place of Alex Smith, McCoy gave a lot. The former University of Texas star, who led a stirring upset of the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in 2014, threw three interceptions against a Dallas defense that had managed four interceptions in its previous nine games. Those three mistakes, the last one with less than five minutes remaining and Washington threatening to cut into an 11-point deficit, overshadowed the things McCoy did well, including scrambling to avoid sacks and hitting Vernon Davis in stride for a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Redskins may not have won Thursday’s game with Smith at the helm, but it’s a safe bet the quarterback with five interceptions all season before he was lost for the year last week wouldn’t have thrown a trifecta of picks on Turkey Day. Meanwhile, Dallas hasn’t turned the ball over in any of its six wins.
No answer for Amari Cooper: When the Redskins defeated the Cowboys at FedEx Field last month, Cooper was still a member of the Raiders. Washington’s secondary probably wishes that had never changed. The loss in Landover prompted Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to make a move, which he did by sending a future first-round draft pick to Oakland in exchange for Cooper the following day. Cooper looked worthy of the hefty price on Thursday, finishing with eight catches for 180 yards. He repeatedly burned the Redskins on third down and caught touchdown passes of 40 and 90 yards during a five-minute span in the third quarter after Washington took a 13-10 lead. Cooper was the primary reason Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott finished with a season-high 289 yards passing.
Ezekiel Elliott outshines Adrian Peterson: Dallas got the better of Washington on the ground, too. After being limited to 33 yards rushing in the teams’ first meeting, Ezekiel Elliott opened the scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run and finished with 121 yards on 26 carries. The Redskins did a solid job of pressuring Prescott in the first half, when they registered all four of their sacks, but the defensive line seemed to wear down after halftime and Washington’s issues defending the run over the last month continued. Offensively, left tackle Trent Williams’s return from a broken thumb wasn’t enough to propel Adrian Peterson to a big day. Peterson had 35 yards rushing on 12 carries, only five of which came after halftime.
Buckle up for the stretch run: In falling to 1-8 all-time on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys and failing to sweep the season series against Dallas for the first time since 2012, the Redskins missed a golden opportunity to put a stranglehold on the NFC East division race. A win would’ve given Washington a two-game lead with five games remaining, although a season sweep effectively would’ve put the Redskins three games clear of Dallas. Instead, the rivals are tied atop the division at 6-5. Washington returns to action in 11 days at Philadelphia on “Monday Night Football.” The Cowboys host the red-hot New Orleans Saints next Thursday. Don’t bank on the division being decided until well into December.
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Final: Cowboys 31, Redskins 23
The Cowboys and Redskins are now tied atop the NFC East at 6-5.
Cowboys recover onside kick: Allen Hurns recovered Dustin Hopkins’ onside kick, and that should do it. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 23, 1:12 4th Quarter)
Dustin Hopkins’s field goal cuts into Dallas’s lead: Hopkins booted a 31-yard field goal to pull the Redskins within eight points. The field goal came after officials missed a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit by Cowboys defensive back Xavier Woods on Jordan Reed, which resulted in an incompletion on third down. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 23, 1:13 4th Quarter)
Tick, tick, tick . . .: Washington will face second-and-17 on the other side of the two-minute warning after Colt McCoy was sacked by Cowboys rookie Leighton Vander Esch. If the Redskins don’t pick up the first down here, look for them to attempt a field goal and try for an onside kick. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 20, 2:00 4th Quarter)
Redskins get the ball back: Washington used two of its three timeouts to preserve as much time as possible before forcing a Dallas punt after Colt McCoy’s third interception of the game. The Redskins started their latest drive from their own 46-yard line needing two scores. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 20, 3:50 4th Quarter)
Colt McCoy throws third interception: Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie appeared to get away with a hold on Maurice Harris before tipping a wobbly pass from Colt McCoy into the air in Dallas territory. Xavier Woods came down with the interception at the Cowboys’ 14-yard line, ending Washington’s bid to make it a one-score game. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 20, 4:18 4th Quarter)
Washington makes a huge fourth-down stop: After burning more than five minutes off the clock, Dallas elected to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Redskins’ 33-yard line. To no one’s surprise, Ezekiel Elliott got the call, but he was brought down by Jonathan Allen for no gain. The Redskins have life, but they’ll be without defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis for the remainder of the game. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 20, 4th Quarter)
Redskins get a touchdown back with quick scoring drive: The Cowboys’ touchdown celebration penalty was assessed on the kickoff, so Brett Maher kicked off from his own 20-yard line. Washington’s Danny Johnson took advantage of the opportunity, returning Maher’s kick 44 yards to the Dallas 44. Six plays later, Kapri Bibbs plunged into the end zone from one-yard out to cap a drive that took fewer than three minutes off the clock. The Redskins’ defense needs a stop, but Washington isn’t out of this one. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 20, 11:43 4th Quarter)
Dak Prescott gives Cowboys a three-score lead with TD scramble: On third-and-goal from the Washington 5-yard line, Prescott dropped back, avoided what looked to be Washington’s fifth sack of the game and navigated his way into the end zone with a five-yard run that covered closer to 30 yards. Prescott was assessed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after Ezekiel Elliott lifted him into the Salvation Army’s red bucket to celebrate the score. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 13, 14:11 4th Quarter)
Colt McCoy throws his second interception: This game is getting away from the Redskins. Washington’s second play after Amari Cooper’s 90-yard touchdown catch resulted in Demarcus Lawrence’s first career interception. The Cowboys took over at the Washington 17-yard line, in position to add to their 11-point lead. (Cowboys 24, Redskins 13, 1:31 3rd Quarter)
Amari Cooper extends Cowboys’ lead with 90-yard touchdown catch: Well, that escalated quickly. On second-and-nine from the Dallas 10-yard line, Dak Prescott found Cooper over the middle near the 30-yard line for a first down. Cooper was determined to get more, and proceeded to break a would-be tackle by Fabian Moreau and outrace safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix down the left sideline for a 90-yard touchdown, the longest in the NFL this year. (Cowboys 24, Redskins 13, 2:10 3rd Quarter)
False start penalty burns Washington: For the second time today, the Redskins were guilty of a false start penalty on third-and-one. This time, the call on Maurice Harris backed Washington up to the Dallas 38-yard line, the edge of field goal range. Colt McCoy threw incomplete on the next play and the Redskins elected to punt rather than go for it or attempt a 55-yard field goal. (Cowboys 17, Redskins 13, 3:05 3rd Quarter)
Trent Williams is back in the game for the Redskins: That’s good news for Washington and the veteran left tackle. (Cowboys 17, Redskins 13, 6:00 3rd Quarter)
Cowboys answer with a touchdown: After the Redskins took their first lead of the game, Dallas went 75 yards on six plays to go back on top. Amari Cooper capped the drive with a 40-yard touchdown catch, the former Raider’s longest play with the Cowboys since being acquired at the trade deadline. Cooper burned Quinton Dunbar on the play, which upped his totals to six catches for 86 yards. (Cowboys 17, Redskins 13, 6:47 3rd Quarter)
Redskins take 13-10 lead on Trey Quinn touchdown catch: Quinn, who played his college ball just down the street at SMU, hauled in a 10-yard pass from former Texas star Colt McCoy for his first career touchdown catch on a shallow cross. Dustin Hopkins missed the ensuing extra point, which could be a factor later. Hopkins’s kick appeared to sail just over the left upright. (Redskins 13, Cowboys 10, 9:02 3rd Quarter)
Trent Williams banged up: Williams, who returned to the lineup for the first time in three games after recovering from thumb surgery, appeared to injure his right hand on an eight-yard run by Kapri Bibbs early in the third quarter. (Cowboys 10, Redskins 7, 9:31 3rd Quarter)
Trey Quinn gives Redskins excellent field position: Jonathan Allen spoiled Dallas’s attempt to set up a screen pass to Ezekiel Elliott by tackling the running back for no gain and Washington’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half. Quinn returned Chris Jones’s punt from the Dallas end zone 29 yards to the Dallas 25-yard line, giving the Redskins their best starting field position of the game. (Cowboys 10, Redskins 7, 10:31 3rd Quarter)
Redskins’ first possession of the second half ends in a punt: A defensive holding penalty gave Washington a fresh set of downs after an apparent three-and-out, but the Redskins couldn’t capitalize. Adrian Peterson ran for one yard and caught a pass in the flat for no gain before Colt McCoy scrambled for two yards on third-and-long. (Cowboys 10, Redskins 7, 12:06 3rd Quarter)
Halftime: Cowboys 10, Redskins 7
Colt McCoy was 7 for 14 for 116 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the first half of his first start since 2014. Adrian Peterson has found the going tough against Dallas’s defense, with 17 yards rushing on seven carries, while Washington has had its hands full with Ezekiel Elliott (11 carries for 58 yards). The Redskins will get the ball first to start the second half.
Teams trade possessions before the half: Washington burned only 21 seconds off the clock while looking for points before the break, giving Dallas a chance to add to its lead. After an uncharacteristically short punt by Tress Way, the Cowboys began their final drive of the half at their own 40-yard line with two timeouts and 1:02 on the clock. Dak Prescott’s 14-yard pass to Amari Cooper on first down put Dallas on the edge of field goal range, but a Preston Smith sack on the next series, Washington’s fourth sack of the game, helped end the threat. (Cowboys 10, Redskins 7, End of 1st Half)
Dallas takes 10-7 lead on short field goal: Brett Maher drilled a 28-yard field goal to cap a 13-play, 65-yard drive that should be considered a minor win for the Redskins’ defense. The Cowboys had first-and-goal from the Washington four-yard line before Dak Prescott underthrew Noah Brown, who was wide open at the goal line, and was then sacked by Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith for a loss of 13 yards. (Cowboys 10, Redskins 7, 1:28 2nd Quarter)
Cowboys are on the move: Dallas is at the Washington 20-yard line at the two-minute warning, thanks to an impressive feat of strength by quarterback Dak Prescott. Despite being sandwiched in the backfield by Stacy McGee and Preston Smith on third down, Prescott remained on his feet and managed to complete a 12-yard pass to wide open rookie Michael Gallup before Smith dragged him to the turf. Prescott, who is 13 for 15 passing, flexed after the play. (Redskins 7, Cowboys 7, 2:00 2nd Quarter)
Vernon Davis ties the game with a long touchdown catch: Davis dropped a potential touchdown pass against the Texans last week and committed a costly penalty earlier in this game, but he ran past Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson and hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Colt McCoy on the first play of Washington’s fourth drive. The play was the longest of the season by the Redskins. (Redskins 7, Cowboys 7, 7:04 2nd Quarter)
Redskins defense almost forces a safety: On second down from his own 5-yard line, Dak Prescot dropped back into the end zone and was immediately pressured. Prescott managed to extend the ball across the goal line while being sacked by Daron Payne to avoid a safety, and while Ezekiel Elliott gave the Cowboys some breathing room with an 11-yard run on third-and-13, the Redskins will start their next drive with excellent field position at their own 47. (Cowboys 7, Redskins 0, 7:12 2nd Quarter)
Adrian Peterson gets going, but Redskins’ drive stalls: Peterson returned to the game after heading to the locker room with an apparent shoulder injury and ran the ball well on Washington’s third drive. His nine-yard run set up a second-and-one at the Dallas 49-yard line, but the Redskins went backward from there. After a false start by Vernon Davis and a Washington timeout, Trey Quinn was dropped for a loss of three on a screen pass and Colt McCoy threw incomplete for Vernon Davis on third down. Tress Way’s ensuing punt was downed at the Dallas 5-yard line. (Cowboys 7, Redskins 0, 9:33 2nd Quarter)
Washington’s defense gets to Dak Prescott: The Redskins sacked the Cowboys QB four times during the teams’s previous meeting last month at FedEx Field. Jonathan Allen tallied Washington’s first sack on Thursday on third down on the final play of the first quarter. (Cowboys 7, Redskins 0, End of 1st Quarter)
Redskins’ second drive ends with an interception: Colt McCoy converted twice on third-and-long with completions to Jordan Reed, including once after officials missed a blatant face mask penalty on Cowboys defensive tackle Daniel Ross, but McCoy made his first serious mistake of the game after Washington crossed midfield. On third-and-four from the Dallas 41-yard line, McCoy lofted a pass down the left sideline for rookie Trey Quinn, but Anthony Brown was there for the easy pick. Adrian Peterson had three carries for one yard on the drive, and was later shown heading into the Redskins’ locker room. (Cowboys 7, Redskins 0, 2:54 1st Quarter)
Washington forces a punt: The Cowboys went three-and-out on their second possession after a false start penalty on first down put them behind the sticks. Dak Prescott threw complete to Blake Jarwin on third-and-long, but the tight end was dragged down just short of the line to gain. (Cowboys 7, Redskins 0, 6:52 1st Quarter)
Redskins go three-and-out: Washington’s first drive ended with a 53-yard punt by Tress Way. It was almost much worse. On third-and-one from the Redskins’ 34-yard line, Colt McCoy dropped back to pass, but seeing no one, decided to tuck the ball and run. Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith sacked McCoy and jarred the ball loose, but Chase Roullier pounced on it for Washington to prevent a turnover. Adrian Peterson didn’t touch the ball on the Redskins’ first series. (Cowboys 7, Redskins 0, 8:28 1st Quarter)
Cowboys make it look easy on opening drive: This wasn’t the start the Redskins’ defense was hoping for. Dallas received the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on 10 plays, with Ezekiel Elliott’s 16-yard touchdown run providing the game’s first points. Dak Prescott was 5 for 6 for 44 yards, including a pair of third-down completions to Amari Cooper. The Cowboys did it without starting left tackle Tyron Smith, who is active despite suffering from a stinger, but opened the game on the sideline. Elliott celebrated his touchdown by putting $21 in the enormous Salvation Army bucket on the field at AT&T Stadium. (Cowboys 7, Redskins 0, 10:02 1st Quarter)
The Redskins won the toss and elected to defer, giving the Cowboys the ball first. Washington’s defense limited Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards rushing on 15 carries in the teams’ first meeting, but the Redskins have struggled against the run over the last three weeks. During the pregame show, Fox’s Jay Glazer reported that Redskins quarterback Alex Smith will be out 8-10 months as a result of his broken leg, meaning he likely won’t be ready for the start of next season.
Some good news for the Redskins: Left tackle Trent Williams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar are both active.
Washington Redskins (6-4) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m., AT&T Stadium
TV: Fox | Radio: 630, 980 AM; 92.7, 94.3, 105.9 FM
Line: Cowboys by 7.5
The Redskins’ 11th appearance on Thanksgiving features higher stakes and more drama than most of the previous 10. Washington leads the host Cowboys by one game in the NFC East division race and already defeated Dallas last month, when Brett Maher’s potential game-tying field goal doinked off the left upright in the final seconds at FedEx Field. Since then, the Cowboys have acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper in a trade with the Raiders, and the Redskins have lost quarterback Alex Smith to a broken leg.
Colt McCoy, who nearly engineered a comeback win in relief of Smith last week, will make his first start in four years for Washington. The former University of Texas star will do so at the site of one of his greatest performances as a pro, a 20-17 overtime win against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on “Monday Night Football” in 2014. The Redskins were 9.5-point underdogs in that game; Dallas, which has won two straight behind running back Ezekiel Elliott, is a 7.5-point favorite on Thursday. The Cowboys are 7-1 all-time against the Redskins on Thanksgiving, including a 31-26 win in 2016.