There were many variables the Washington Redskins couldn't control in their 33-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. They played without three starting offensive linemen, a starting cornerback and a starting inside linebacker as their roster has been decimated by injuries. Rain poured down throughout Sunday's game at FedEx Field, creating anything-but-ideal conditions on a terrible playing surface.
Yet, for the first 26 minutes and 41 seconds after kickoff, the Redskins appeared to be dictating the game. That's when place-kicker Nick Rose, who was signed to replace the injured Dustin Hopkins 11 days ago, lined up for a 36-yard kick that would've given Washington a nine-point lead, 16-7.
He didn't make it. Instead, Rose's third field goal attempt was blocked by Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford and scooped up by Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who returned it 86 yards to set up first-and-goal for Dallas. Two plays later, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge to give Dallas a 14-13 lead it would hold for the rest of the first half.
A 10-point swing in three plays, and suddenly, the Redskins lost their authority.
"It took the momentum out the game for us," cornerback Josh Norman said. "It really did. The wind just went out of our sails. It really did, and we couldn't get the mojo back."
Rose made his previous attempts from 38 and 42 yards, despite a soft field and consistent downpour of rain. On this kick, however, Crawford got a great jump off the line of scrimmage against guard Arie Kouandjio, who was cut after the preseason but signed off the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad Saturday because of Washington's dire need at offensive line, to block the kick.
"He got off the ball pretty good, but I felt like I had him pretty good," Kouandjio said. "I was like, 'Yeah, I got you.' And then I hear the ball pop, and I realized, 'Dang.' He blocked it because he jumped. I don't know man. I gotta watch the film on that one. I don't know how that got through. Things happen, I wish it didn't."
Punter Tress Way also bobbled the wet ball from long snapper Nick Sundberg, but he was able to get it down in time for Rose to get the kick off. Rose said the kick still came off his foot well. He felt made good contact with the ball as his foot didn't hit the ground.
"The timing was good," Rose said. "We were right where we wanted to be operation-wise. My crew, we did a great job of getting it done and getting it kicked. Things happen, you know?"
The kick ricocheted off Crawford's hand and bounced off Scandrick around the 13-yard line, which made it a live ball. Scandrick grabbed the ball and ran to his right before reversing field, where he had a clear running lane.
"I was really shocked that he picked it up, and he kind of reversed field a couple of times," Way said. "It's a bunch of people out there that aren't used to tackling or covering kicks. He ended up making a great return on it."
The Cowboys established a wall of blockers as Scandrick ran down the sideline. Right tackle Morgan Moses, who played through two sprained ankles, ran as far back as he could to serve as the last line of defense and would end up bringing Scandrick down at the 4-yard line.
"You can't say enough about Mo," Way said. "That guy is unreal. His toughness and everything, he's incredible."
Way was called for a low block on the play, a half-the-distance-to-the-goal penalty that gave Dallas the ball at the 2. Elliott couldn't punch it in on the first play of the drive, but he would record his second rushing touchdown of the game on the next play.
This sequence, which lasted 55 seconds of playing time, erased everything the Redskins accomplished up until that point. Dallas extended its lead in the third quarter with three field goals, and it sealed the victory during the final minute when safety Byron Jones picked off quarterback Kirk Cousins on a deflected pass and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. But a large part of the ending was authored earlier in the game.
"That block was huge," Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. "It might have been the turning point and the key play in the whole game. … For them to make a stop, that point swing was huge."