2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Tuesday’s Monday Morning Quarterback Report | In-Depth insider viewpoints and analysis of the Cowboys loss | Game takeaways and talking points | Moving on to the next game

2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Tuesday’s Monday Morning Quarterback Report | Insider viewpoints and analysis of the Cowboys loss

ARLINGTON, Texas – The capacity crowd at AT&T Stadium buzzed when Tony Romo returned to the Cowboys’ sideline – it downright roared when he returned to the field in a tie game.

 

It seemed like another too-good-to-be true storyline that the NFL consistently seems to produce. Romo, who underwent back surgery just 10 months ago, took a hard shot to his back when the Washington Redskins sacked him for the fourth of five times.

“Even if I hadn’t had back surgery, I would still probably feel that one pretty good. It was just a direct hit right there,” Romo said.

The Cowboys’ veteran quarterback lay motionless on the field for upward of five minutes, and the stadium around him felt hushed as backup Brandon Weeden fought Dallas back to tie a sloppy game, 17-17.

It roared to a crescendo when Romo returned, however – a tied game, two minutes remaining and 97 yards to go. The injury, classified as a back contusion, wouldn’t be enough to keep him out.

“Talking to the doctors and the trainers and then talking to Tony about how he was and he was able to move around on the sidelines. It seemed like he was going to be able to function,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

If it was a storybook setup, though, the outcome was a dose of brutal reality. The Cowboys’ attempt at a game-winning drive went just 19 yards, and it featured another Washington sack and an intentional grounding flag on Romo – a result of the Redskins’ relentless pressure.
“They made some critical sacks and critical disruptions on third downs at key moments that didn’t allow us to keep drives alive,” Garrett said.

Overtime was no different. After Colt McCoy drove Washington 58 yards to take a 20-17 lead on a 40-yard field goal, the Cowboys had a drive of their own to tie or win. They managed four plays and gained just seven yards – with a play selection of one run to three passes.

“One of our goals was to use play action on second down,” said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “The whole idea was if it wasn’t there, we were going to check down. I don’t know what happened. I’m probably going to wish I had run the ball on the second play, but that’s the way the game goes sometimes.”

Much like their last loss, all the way back on Sept. 7, the Cowboys likely wouldn’t have been in such an unfavorable position without a slew of mistakes. They allowed a 37-yard punt return to set up Washington’s first field goal of the night; Joseph Randle compounded that by losing a fumble on the Dallas 9-yard line just 10 minutes later.

DeMarco Murray’s gaffe will be best remembered. At the tail end of a 36-yard gain into the Washington red zone, he lost his fifth fumble of the season on the Redskins’ 10-yard line – cancelling out an opportunity to take an early lead.

“Any time you give the ball up, you’re obviously eliminating an opportunity to score yourselves. There aren’t that many drives in a game,” Garrett said. “Those two early turnovers hurt us, hurt our scoring chances early, and we’re playing catch up from there on.”

The miscues go on. Four of Washington’s five sacks came on critical third downs, killing Cowboys’ drive in the process. On another third down, Weeden found Dez Bryant for what would have been the wideout’s second touchdown of the night – only for Bryant to drop the ball.

“We let one slip away,” Bryant said. “We’ve got to look at ourselves in this one, we did this as a team…We let one slip away.”

That can just as easily be applied to the Dallas defense. They were put in some bad situations, but the Cowboys’ defenders didn’t showcase the same soundness that has characterized them this season. Missed tackles and broken coverage’s were a theme on the night, as Washington racked up 409 yards of offense.

Although he did throw a red zone interception, McCoy was particularly effective. He completed 83 percent of his passes for 299 yards, and he rushed for a touchdown of his own. While the Cowboys’ offense repeatedly stalled, McCoy’s offense controlled the clock for 38 minutes on the night.

“We found a way to play well in the second half, and we started converting on third downs and found a way to stay on the field, and that is huge against a football who is 6-1 and leading our division,” McCoy said.

It’s fair to say things could be worse. Romo might not have gotten the storybook finish he wanted, but his ability to finish the game at all is sure to please those in the Dallas locker room. It won’t make the loss any less disappointing, but it might make short week of preparation for Arizona a bit more encouraging.

“We are disappointed about this game, but at the same point we are going to have figure out a way to turn around in 24 hours and get ready for our next game,” Romo said. “Obviously with the injury aspect of it, you feel like you may have dodged one in that regard.”


RELATED: This one proves the Dallas Cowboys are mortal

ARLINGTON, Texas – This is a shame, a dirty rotten shame.

Their own dirty rotten shame, losing at home to a team coming in with a 2-5 record, starting a third-string quarterback who had not started a game since Dec. 8, 2011, and owning a miserable minus-9 turnover differential, all before a Monday night crowd at AT&T Stadium affording them as much of a home-field advantage as anyone could have hoped for.

Redskins 20, Cowboys 17, in overtime, and their six-game winning streak coming to a screeching halt is even worse than that.

DeMarco Murray rushes for another 100 yards, 141 to be exact, for a record-stretching eighth consecutive time to open a season.

For the first time in eight games the Cowboys had to rely on backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, who performed admirably, leading the club to 10 second-half points, managing a 17-17 tie before the injured Tony Romo could return with just 1:52 left in game.

Newcomer Henry Melton probably had his best game as a Cowboy, registering two sacks, two more than the entire team had the previous Sunday against the Giants and as many as they had in the past three games, and Tyrone Crawford continues to be all over the place since being moved to defensive tackle.

And while the entire defense wasn’t exactly stellar, the Cowboys did manage to hold the Redskins to 17 points in regulation, and hey, any time you hold the opposition to no more than 17 points, sort of the line of demarcation between winning and losing in the NFL, you give your team a chance for the victory.

But the Cowboys didn’t. Lost their first game in seven weeks. Lost the distinction of owning the best record in the NFL, not to mention an NFC East game. Lost taking a 1.5-game lead in the division over Philadelphia, having to settle for but a half-game lead. Lost their flourishing luster, certainly causing many to grab the emergency brake on all this talk of them being the best team in the National Football League.

Proved they are mortal.

Look, I get it. It’s hard to win six straight games in the NFL, even if you’re the unqualified best team in the league. So that makes it really hard to win seven straight as the Cowboys were trying to do for the first time since 2007, trying to extend what had been the longest winning streak in the NFL this season.

And I get that Washington probably played its best game of the year, which figures when we’re talking Cowboys and Redskins. For a reminder of these strange occurrences in this rivalry, the 25-year anniversary is approaching of the 0-8 Cowboys going into RFK heading toward what seemed a certain ignominious 0-16 NFL and instead won what would be their one and only game of that 1989 season, 13-3.

But doggoneit, this one is on them, or as Dez Bryant appropriately said, “We let one slip away. We’ve got to look at ourselves in this one.”

A long hard look in the mirror.

Why, you can’t take a little swing pass 36 yards to the Washington 5 and fumble the ball away, DeMarco Murray.

You can’t run 51 yards to the Washington 6, DeMarco Murray, and then another 3 to the 3 and come away with only a field goal. That’s a minimum of seven, and a possible 11 points the Cowboys left on the field in a game that went overtime. Give me those 11, and Cowboys win 28-17 in regulation, as predicted.

You can’t have what seemed like one of those taking-candy-from-a-baby touchdown tosses from the 3 on a slant slip through your grasp, Dez Bryant, who came to the sideline after the Cowboys settled for that field goal apologizing, telling every unit that would listen, that was “my bad.”

But most of all, you can’t act as if you have never seen a blitz. Come on, that’s what Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has been doing for years to control Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Bring pressure. Bring it up the gut. Bring it from the outside. Bring six. Bring seven. Heck, sometimes eight. Play zero-coverage.

Might as well have brought ’em all.

The Redskins, without Brian Orakpo and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and with former Cowboys defensive lineman Jason Hatcher’s defensive line zeroed out, sacked Romo five times. And to think he had only been sacked five times in the previous five games.

And there weren’t any polite sacks. These were brutal, every one of them, including the untouched Keenan Robinson sack with 7:50 left in the third quarter and the Cowboys trailing 10-7 that nearly broke Romo in two.

OK, maybe not, but seriously, that was violent, and Romo paid a high price. While they say he only suffered a “back contusion,” the contused part might look like a watermelon by time he woke up on Tuesday morning heading for an MRI. X-rays were negative, so no structural damage, but geesh. Romo admitted to taking a shot to deaden the pain caused by the hit. For sure he isn’t practicing on Wednesday this week, and this will be out of necessity instead of being a “Romo Day.”

The Cowboys were so worried about Romo’s condition that COO Stephen Jones was seen scurrying down to the field. Down came owner Jerry Jones, too, for the first time in ages. Yep, it was that bad, and looked worse than that every time you watched another replay.

Says on the stat sheet he was hurried another four times. Ha, that’s generous. Seemed hurried all night. And it’s not as if the offensive line was simply getting physically beaten. Washington was coming from every which way, oftentimes more than the Cowboys had men to block.

And if that were not bad enough, those Redskins did not treat Romo with any more regard when he returned to the 17-17 game with 1:52 remaining in the fourth, Dallas hoping to make this grand drive for the winning field goal starting from its own 3-yard line.

Right, think again. On second-and-1 after a Murray 9-yard run, and the Cowboys realizing they had a ways to go if they were going to reach Dan Bailey’s field-goal range in time, safety Brandon Merriweather came on his umpteenth blitz off the edge, of course untouched, nailing Romo for a sack and a fumble, only Murray’s recovery preventing shear disaster.

And darn if the Redskins didn’t blitz on the next five plays, the last on third-and-1 from the 32, forcing a Romo throw-away called grounding with only 16 seconds remaining. Overtime.

Same disregard for Romo’s health in overtime following the Redskins field-goal drive, never really giving him a chance to get the ball down the field and the Cowboys progressing no further than 8 yards before their four downs expired.

As did their six-game winning streak, only part of the carnage that laid in the wake, not only Romo with a sore back, but likely having lost linebacker and defensive captain Justin Durant with a torn biceps and guard Ron Leary leaving with somewhat of a strained groin.

Nice time for a short week, huh, with the 6-1 Arizona Cardinals heading this way for a noon start on Sunday.

“It’s a long season in this league,” Cowboys co-captain Jason Witten said. “This one hurts. It’s going to hurt. … We tried to overcome it, but there were too many turnovers, too many sacks, too many pressures and we just didn’t capitalize when we had opportunities.”

The shame of it all in a nutshell.


RELATED: Outplayed & Out-Executed – Cowboys couldn’t overcome mistakes

ARLINGTON, Texas – We’ve seen it a few times already this year – you don’t have to win all three phases of the game to claim a victory.

But if you get outplayed in all three, you have no shot. Throw in the fact the Redskins also out-coached and out-schemed Dallas on Monday night and you have to even wonder how the Cowboys managed to get to overtime.

The standings certainly won’t suggest that the Redskins are better than the Cowboys.  But they were Monday night and that’s why they walked out of AT&T Stadium with a 20-17 overtime win.

The Redskins outplayed the Cowboys when they had the football, even owning it for more minutes of game clock. They made sure Colt McCoy stayed in manageable situations and he got himself out of a few tight spots, too.

Defensively, the Redskins were all over the Cowboys – not only sacking Romo five times, but also putting the hurt on the quarterback in the third quarter, knocking him out of the game momentarily.

Every time there is a tough loss, it seems like someone will say, “well, it only counts as one loss.”

Let’s find out this week if that’s true. Losing the game will be hard to swallow. But as long as this Tony Romo injury is described as just a back contusion, then yeah, I’ll buy the “only counts once” theory. But defensively, the Cowboys weren’t as lucky, losing Justin Durant for the season with a biceps injury.

Still, this team has found a way to overcome injuries at that position.

And until Monday night, they’ve found ways to overcome just about anything that happens throughout the game. But they simply couldn’t against the Redskins, who always seemed to be a step ahead.

To win games in this league, making big plays is important. But avoiding the bad ones are vital.

The Cowboys just couldn’t avoid them. As great as DeMarco Murray has been this year, and it continued Monday with his NFL-record eighth straight 100-yard game, he cost the team again with a fumble in the red zone. Honestly, unlike a lot of people sitting around me in the press box and certainly on twitter, I don’t fault him for churning for extra yards. That’s the way he runs and that’s why he’s been so amazing.

But you fault him for fumbling the ball, period. It shouldn’t matter if there are five guys around you or one, you know they’re going after the football. It’s a running back’s job to protect the ball and once again, he failed to do that. This team has gotten away with it in other games, but they couldn’t against Washington. We always knew there might be a game in which the fumble would bite them. Consider the Cowboys bitten.

Murray’s backup, Joseph Randle, lost a key fumble as well, but the Cowboys were at least fortunate enough to come up with an interception.

See, the Redskins had their share of mistakes, too, but they were minimal. While there were at least three occasions when it looked like they might have coughed up fumbles, the stat book says they never fumbled once. Meanwhile, the Cowboys had four fumbles and lost two.

If Murray doesn’t pounce on Romo’s fumble at the end of regulation, the game is over right then and there.

Yeah, the Cowboys had their chances to win. In most close games like this, the losing team will look back and shake their head about a couple of plays. This one is no exception.

But the Redskins were just a tad better on this one. And it seemed to start with preparation, and also execution.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been really good this year. The play-calling wasn’t so hot on Monday night. We should be hesitant to blame the play-caller all the time because of the quarterback’s ability to check out of plays.

There were a couple of drives in which the Cowboys should’ve simply run the ball more. After Murray ripped off a 51-yard run to the Redskins’ 6, he then got another carry to the 3. After that, it was two straight passes from Weeden, who hasn’t thrown a pass all year.

Umm, why? If Murray was tired, replace him. But second-and-goal from the 3 should be at least two more runs and possibly a third.

But the Cowboys were counting on Weeden being sharp enough to execute those timing routes to Bryant, who probably should’ve made the catch on third-down.

To me, that’s a case of the Cowboys out-thinking themselves. I thought this offensive line was built to push through the eight-man fronts and run the ball despite the looks.

Then, in overtime, it’s a unique situation where the offense knows it has four downs every time. Yet, after an 8-yard run by Murray, the Cowboys throw it three times to lose the game.

Even Romo admitted the Cowboys came out thinking they might throw it deep if the Redskins showed a run-defense look. But they didn’t and the Cowboys couldn’t complete a pass. Once again, run the ball and make it manageable.

The Cowboys averaged 6.6 yards a carry, but on two occasions when they needed 3 yards and had three downs to get it, they failed.

Either the coaches called the wrong plays or didn’t emphasize it enough that the quarterback couldn’t check out.

The Cowboys have won six straight games playing to their strength, but they went away from it a couple of times Monday night.

The glass half-full people will tell us how no one expected them to be 6-2 at the halfway point. The glass-half empty folks will wonder if this is a sign of a team that got exposed.


In their own words … plus, local analysis shows …

Latest update – Jason Garrett: Update on Romo, Durant, Leary’s status | Listen/Download

Last night – Jerry Jones: Not surprised Romo went back in | Listen/Download

Last night – Jason Witten: We had plenty of opportunities | Listen/Download

Today – Talkin Cowboys Show: Should Romo have gone back in? | Listen/Download

Today – Cowboys Break Show: What went wrong against Washington? | Listen/Download

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