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The key moments from Redskins’ 31-21 loss to the Cowboys in home opener

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Devin Smith (15) hauls in a long touchdown pass in the second quarter in front of Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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Here are the biggest moments from the Redskins’s 31-21 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday at FedEx Field. Scroll down to see a full recap of the game.

Biggest moments

Penalty precedes Cowboys touchdown (0:13, Second Quarter): With the game tied 7-7 just before halftime, the Redskins appeared to have forced the Cowboys to settle for a short field goal after Dak Prescott’s third down pass at the Washington 5-yard line fell incomplete. But rookie cornerback Jimmy Moreland was flagged for defensive holding, giving Dallas, which still had one timeout, a fresh set of downs and 13 seconds to take another shot at the end zone. Prescott found tight end Jason Witten, who returned to the Cowboys after one year in the “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth, for a two-yard touchdown pass on the next play. Dallas would prove difficult enough for the Redskins to stop even when they weren’t committing costly penalties over the remainder of the game.

Devin Smith’s long touchdown (6:10, Second Quarter): For the second straight week, the first score the Redskins allowed was a 51-yard touchdown pass. DeSean Jackson’s first of two 50-plus-yard touchdowns helped spark Philadelphia’s comeback from a 17-point deficit in Week 1. On Sunday, speedster Devin Smith, who was released by the Jets in 2017 after suffering his second ACL tear in three years, gave the large contingent of Cowboys fans at FedEx Field their first real opportunity to cheer. On second and seven from the Dallas 49-yard line midway through the second quarter, Smith ran past Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and caught Prescott’s pass in stride en route to the end zone for his first touchdown since 2015. If Norman was expecting safety help over the top from Montae Nicholson, he didn’t get it.

Prescott shows off his wheels (2:30, Second Quarter): On the Dallas drive that ended in Witten’s touchdown catch, Prescott broke off a career-long 42-yard run. Prescott faked a handoff to running back Tony Pollard, who darted to the right and took most of Washington’s defenders with him. Prescott found nothing but green around the left side and would’ve scored if not for Norman, who avoided Michael Gallup’s attempted block to make a touchdown-saving tackle. Prescott had five carries for 69 yards in the game.

Cowboys open the second half with a touchdown (9:58, Third Quarter): At halftime, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden told Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver something that was plainly obvious to anyone who watched the Cowboys outgain their hosts 170-11 in the second quarter: Washington needed a stop. It wouldn’t get one. Prescott led the Cowboys on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown catch by Amari Cooper. Prescott was 5 for 5 for 64 yards on the march and finished the game with almost as many touchdown passes (three) as incompletions (four).

Redskins fail to convert on fourth down (11:07, Fourth Quarter): Trailing 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, Gruden opted to leave his offense on the field on fourth and three from the Dallas 46-yard line after Cowboys safety Xavier Woods dropped a potential interception. Out of a Washington timeout, Case Keenum threw wide of Chris Thompson on a short route toward the right sideline. A completion would have resulted in a first down. Instead, the Redskins turned the ball over on downs, and the Cowboys scored on their fifth straight possession to effectively ice the game.

Trey Quinn gives Washington hope (6:38, Third Quarter): Given his defense’s inability to stop the Cowboys, Gruden decided to go for it on fourth-and-seven from the Dallas 31-yard line midway through the third quarter and the Redskins trailing 21-7. On that attempt, Keenum threw an accurate ball to Quinn on a slant for a 12-yard gain. Four plays later, Keenum connected with Paul Richardson for a four-yard touchdown.

Pressure leads to interception (5:08, First Quarter): With five minutes remaining in the first quarter of a scoreless game and Dallas facing third-and-one from its own 43-yard line, Prescott took a snap out of the shotgun formation and dropped back to pass. Sensing pressure from Redskins defensive lineman Daron Payne, Prescott stepped up in the pocket and released an off-balance throw that deflected off receiver Randall Cobb’s hands and into the arms of safety Montae Nicholson. Prescott came into the game with six touchdowns and zero interceptions in six career games, including five wins, against Washington.

Adrian Peterson passes Jim Brown (14:15, Second Quarter): Peterson, who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career last week, got the start on Sunday after Derrius Guice went on injured reserve following knee surgery. He was tackled for a loss of four yards on his first touch and limited to 25 yards on 10 carries in the game, but the 34-year-old did make some more history in the process. Peterson gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead with a one-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. It was the 107th rushing touchdown of his career, moving him past Jim Brown and into sole possession of fifth-place on the all-time list. Next up? Walter Payton’s 110.


  • After posting a perfect passer rating last week, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was nearly as good against the Redskins, completing 26 of 30 passes for 269 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
  • Adrian Peterson was limited to 25 yards rushing on 10 carries in his 2019 debut after sitting out last week as a healthy scratch. Peterson’s one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the 107th of his career, moving him past Jim Brown for No. 5 on the all-time list.
  • The Redskins’ defense offered little resistance to the Cowboys’ attack in giving of at least 30 points for the second straight week. After falling behind 7-0, Dallas scored on its next five possessions, including four touchdowns, and finished with
  • Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
  • Washington is 0-2 for the first time since 2016 and has lost six of its last seven games against Dallas. Redskins Coach Jay Gruden fell to 3-8 against the Cowboys.

Quarter-by-quarter updates

Fourth Quarter

Terry McLaurin scores again: It’s probably too little, too late, but the Redskins cut the Dallas lead to 10 on Terry McLaurin’s one-yard touchdown catch. It’s the rookie’s second touchdown grab of the season. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 21, 2:17 Fourth Quarter)

Ezekiel Elliott finds the end zone: The Cowboys’ running back has had a quiet game by his standards, but he’s up to 76 yards on 19 carries after his two-yard touchdown run capped a 10-play, 54-yard drive. Dallas has scored on its last five possessions and Redskins fans are heading for the exits at FedEx Field. (Cowboys 31, Redskins 14, 5:07 Fourth Quarter)

Redskins fail to convert fourth down: Out of a Redskins timeout and facing fourth-and-three at the Dallas 46-yard line, Case Keenum threw behind running back Chris Thompson. With a better throw, the play results in a first down, but Keenum (17 for 26 for 156 yards) hasn’t looked as sharp as he did in Week 1. (Cowboys 24, Redskins 14, 11:07 Fourth Quarter)

Field goal gives Dallas a two-score lead: An Amari Cooper holding penalty wiped out a touchdown run by Tony Pollard on Dallas’s latest drive, and the Cowboys ultimately settled for a 25-yard field goal by Brett Maher. Prescott hasn’t thrown an incompletion in the second half and is 23 for 27 for 228 yards and three touchdowns in the game. (Cowboys 24, Redskins 14, 13:51 Fourth Quarter)

Third Quarter

Redskins answer after fourth-down conversion: Washington responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive of its own, as Case Keenum connected with wide receiver Paul Richardson from nine yards out to pull the Redskins to within one score. The key play on the drive was Keenum’s completion on a slant to Trey Quinn on fourth-and-seven from the Dallas 31-yard line. Quinn has three catches for 29 yards, and two of them have resulted in first down conversions on Washington touchdown drives. (Cowboys 21, Redskins 14, 4:30 Third Quarter)

Cowboys begin second half with another TD drive: The Redskins’ defense offered little resistance on Dallas’s nine-play, 75-yard drive to start the second half. Prescott was 5 for 5 for 64 yards on the march, capped by a 10-yard strike to Amari Cooper. The Cowboys only faced one third down on the drive and have now scored 21 unanswered points. (Cowboys 21, Redskins 7, 9:58 Third Quarter)

Halftime: Cowboys 14, Redskins 7

Second Quarter

Jason Witten’s TD gives Cowboys the lead: One play after a third-down defensive holding penalty in the end zone on rookie cornerback Jimmy Moreland gave the Cowboys a fresh set of downs with 13 seconds to play in the first half, Dak Prescott found tight end and former “Monday Night Football” analyst Jason Witten for a two-yard touchdown. The key play on the 83-yard drive was Prescott’s career-long 42-yard run on a perfectly executed read-option run. Dallas was also helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty on rookie defensive end Montez Sweat. (Cowboys 14, Redskins 7, 0:09 Second Quarter)

Another deep pass burns the Redskins: DeSean Jackson got behind the Redskins’ secondary for a pair of 50-plus-yard touchdown receptions last week. Devin Smith did it again on Sunday, running past cornerback Josh Norman on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott off play-action. Norman had no safety help on the play, as Montae Nicholson broke on an intermediate route. Smith’s catch capped an impressive seven-play, 97-yard drive that also featured a 15-yard run by Prescott. (Redskins 7, Cowboys 7, 6:19 Second Quarter)

Ryan Kerrigan sacks Dak Prescott: Playing without the injured Jonathan Allen, the Redskins’ defensive line has managed to put more pressure on the quarterback in a little more than a quarter than they did in all of last week’s game. On third-and-five from the Dallas 30-yard line, Daron Payne flushed Dak Prescott out of the pocket and Ryan Kerrigan chased him down for his first sack of the year and an eighty-yard loss. Dallas is 1 for 4 on third down to start the game. (Redskins 7, Cowboys 0, 13:35 Second Quarter)

Redskins capitalize on turnover: Adrian Peterson gave the Redskins the lead and passed Jim Brown for No. 5 all-time on the all-time career rushing touchdowns list with his 107th on the second play of the second quarter. Peterson’s one-yard burst up the middle with linebacker Ryan Anderson leading the way as a fullback capped a 10-play, 38-yard drive set up by Montae Nicholson’s interception. Peterson, who has six carries for 11 yards, also made a key third-down catch on the scoring drive (Redskins 7, Cowboys 0, 14:15 Second Quarter)

First Quarter

Montae Nicholson intercepts Dak Prescott: After a quiet debut against the Eagles, second-year defensive lineman Daron Payne helped force the first turnover for the Redskins’ defense this season. On third-and-one from the Dallas 43, Payne burst through the line. While Dak Prescott stepped up to avoid the sack, he released an off-balance throw that deflected off wide receiver Randall Cobb’s hands and into the arms of safety Montae Nicholson. It was Prescott’s first interception in 169 career pass attempts against Washington. Nicholson’s return gave the Redskins their best field position of the day at the Dallas 38-yard line. (Redskins 0, Cowboys 0, 5:08 First Quarter)

Washington commits first penalty: A holding penalty on Jeremy Sprinkle negated a five-yard run by Adrian Peterson on Washington’s second drive. The Redskins couldn’t dig themselves out of the early hole and punted for a second time three plays later. (Redskins 0, Cowboys 0, 8:40 First Quarter)

Cowboys go three-and-out: Washington allowed the Eagles to convert 11 of their 17 third-down opportunities in Week 1, but the Redskins’ defense got off the field on their first chance Sunday. On third-and-four from the Dallas 16-yard line, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looked to attack rookie cornerback Jimmy Moreland on a slant route, but Moreland read the play well and established inside position on wide receiver Michael Gallup to break up the pass. (Redskins 0, Cowboys 0, 11:03 First Quarter)

Redskins come up empty on opening possession: Dallas won the toss, but elected to defer, giving Washington the ball first. The Redskins took a deep shot on their first play from scrimmage, with Case Keenum looking for rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin over the middle on a similar play to the one that resulted in a touchdown last week. Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones didn’t bite on the play-action fake and was in position to break up Keenum’s underthrown ball. Adrian Peterson’s first carry of the season went for a loss of four yards, as defensive tackle Maliek Collins blew past center Chase Roullier to make the tackle. Chris Thompson picked up 13 yards on third-and-14, leading to a Tress Way punt. (Redskins 0, Cowboys 0, 12:35 First Quarter)

Pregame updates

With cornerback Quinton Dunbar inactive, Jimmy Moreland, a seventh-round rookie out of JMU who showed flashes in the preseason, is expected to see a lot of action against the Cowboys.

The announced attendance at last season’s home opener against the Colts, 57,013, was the lowest for a Redskins home opener since FedEx Field opened in 1997. Sunday’s game could be close to a sellout, but much of the crowd will be wearing blue and silver.