Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' 34-23 victory over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.*
1. Goal 1, accomplished: The Redskins maintained their offensive momentum with both Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy under center.
After having already clinched the NFC East title last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Jay Gruden expressed his desire to see his team continue the hot momentum that had led to three straight wins heading into Sunday's game against the Cowboys – particularly on offense.
After an unsuccessful first drive that resulted in just one first down, Cousins and the Redskins' offense showed they hadn't missed a beat Sunday. After Washington forced a second Dallas punt, Cousins, on the first play of their second drive, found rookie wide receiver Jamison Crowder on a nifty screen play for a 44-yard completion to the Dallas 5-yard line.
On the very next play, Cousins found second-year wide receiver Ryan Grant for a five-yard touchdown.
Cousins would throw two more touchdowns in the quarter – to Pierre Garcon and to Jamison Crowder – and, entering the second quarter, the Redskins had taken a commanding 21-0 lead.
After a Dustin Hopkins 27-yard field goal in the second quarter – making it 24-0 – Gruden elected to pull Cousins. The fourth-year Michigan State had already broken Redskins single-season records for completions and passing yards, and there was no need to risk a potentially crippling injury, so there was no need to keep Cousins out there for the rest of the game.
McCoy, meanwhile, overcame a slow start to complete 7-of-11 passes for 128 yards with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Ross. He also was able to hand the ball off to Alfred Morris for a majority of the second half, and the running back responded with 19 carries for 100 yards (5.3 yards per carry), representing his first 100-yard outing since Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.
The Redskins need Morris at the top of his game in the playoffs for Cousins' play action game to be at its best, so, with the No. 1 offense clicking on all cylinders, the Redskins appear in good shape in that regard heading into the postseason.
2. Goal 2, accomplished – somewhat: The Redskins stayed mostly healthy throughout the game, giving them a decently full roster heading into the postseason.
This is marked "somewhat" because two young members of the Redskins' secondary – defensive back Kyshoen Jarrett and cornerback Dashaun Phillips – both were knocked out of Sunday's game with what immediately appeared to be injuries to their head/neck area.
After being tended to by team medical personnel, Jarrett was able to walk off the field on his own, though he did not return. Phillips, meanwhile, had to be taken off the field on a cart. He was transported to a local hospital, but was moving all extremities, according to the team. Both Jarrett and Phillips were expected to be on the team's flight back to Washington, D.C., which is a good sign, and the team awaits the results of further testing.
So those injuries certainly affect the depth of the team's secondary. Depending on how much time, if any, they're expected to miss, the Redskins might have to turn to their practice squad or to free agency to fill those holes this week.
Other than that, however, the team escaped AT&T Stadium with only a few other bumps and bruises. DeAngelo Hall and Jeron Johnson both exited the game at some point but re-entered.
Washington is hoping to get two key veterans back for the beginning of its playoff run: center Kory Lichtensteiger and inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. Lichtensteiger injured his neck and left shoulder earlier in the year and was placed on the Injured-Reserve (designated to return) list. The only way he could've made his return was if the team made the playoffs. Riley Jr., meanwhile, underwent surgery on his foot a few weeks back after injuring it during practice. He participated in practices leading up to the Cowboys game, but was listed as inactive.
Also due to return for the playoffs is rookie running back Matt Jones, who has missed the last two games with a hip injury, as well as cornerback Quinton Dunbar (quad), safety Dashon Goldson (shoulder/rib) and tackle Trent Williams (knee/foot).
3. Jamison Crowder can be really, really good.
With their No. 1 receiver, DeSean Jackson, active but not playing – and with their No. 2 receiver, Garcon, only playing a couple series – on Sunday, the Redskins had three young options at wide receiver in Crowder, Grant and Ross.
They would combine to catch 10 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys.
So the Redskins can rest easy knowing they have plenty of depth at the wide receiver position, now and for years to come.
Crowder had the best overall performance of the three on Sunday, catching five passes for a caree-rhigh 109 yards – his first career 100-yard receiving game.
Crowder, who recorded a career-long 44-yard reception on that aforementioned first-quarter bubble screen play, recorded his second receiving touchdown of the season in the first quarter, becoming the first Redskins wide receiver with multiple touchdowns in a season since Rod Gardner in 2001.
The Duke product finishes his regular season with 59 receptions, passing Art Monk (58 in 1980) for the most by a rookie in team history. It's the second-most by a member of the Redskins in his first NFL season, trailing only Gary Clark, who had 72 receptions in 1985.
"Just a confidence builder for me," Crowder said. "I know when the playoffs come, your game has got to elevate, so that was definitely a confidence boost for me."
4. The Redskins' defense continued its trend of forcing multiple turnovers.
Getting Cousins going offensively has been a huge component of the Redskins' end-of-the-season run to an NFC Championship, but the team's defense has been opportunistic, as well.
That continued on Sunday, when the defense earned two interceptions and recovered two Dallas fumbles.
The two interceptions were by linebacker Will Compton – the first of his career – and by veteran cornerback Will Blackmon, who set a personal best with his second pick of the season. He now has three in his career.
One fumble was recovered by Chris Baker, meanwhile, while the other was forced by Blackmon, who knocked the ball out of running back Darren McFadden's grip just short of the goal line; the ball rolled out of bounds in the end zone, resulting in a touchback and giving Washington the ball back at its 20 – and preventing what looked like an easy Dallas score.
Blackmon has been a huge pickup for the Redskins' secondary. The play on McFadden was his career-best third forced fumble of the season.
"He was running and I saw the lineman come at me, so I'm not just going to sacrifice a body for a body," Blackmon said about the play. "And I remember Earl Thomas made a similar play against the Rams last year at the red zone, so that's what I went for."
On another note, the Redskins also recorded four or more sacks for a third consecutive game for the first time since Weeks 5-7 of the 1992 season. Ryan Kerrigan, Chris Baker, Preston Smith and Frank Kearse each notched takedowns of Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore.
5. A 9-7 record sure looks and feels a lot better than 8-8.
Yes, the Redskins had already wrapped up the division and a No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs, but there was some pride on the line Sunday in North Texas.
Check out these top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 17 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys came in a woeful 4-11, but one of their only triumphs on the season was a 19-16, last-second *Monday Night Football *victory Dec. 7 at FedExField.
The Redskins more than made up for that on Sunday in Arlington, Texas, getting the job done by using a majority of their starters only the first couple quarters, and then finishing the job with several backups in the second half.
The win also gave Washington its 39th winning season in team history – its 24th nine-win season, specifically – and its first since 2012. The Redskins also have now posted four consecutive wins since winning seven straight to close out that 2012 season.
Also, with their win on Sunday, coupled with their overtime victory last season in Dallas, the Redskins posted victories in North Texas in consecutive seasons for the first time since winning three straight against Dallas from 1987-89.
The Redskins' 4-2 NFC East record this season is its third-best divisional record since divisional realignment in 2002. The team went 5-1 in NFC East play in 2005 and 2012.
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