The Redskins came up short in their Thanksgiving battle with the Cowboys on Thursday, adding another one-score defeat to the season that has seen the team in several close battles.
Close games have seemed to be the theme of the Redskins' 2016 season through 12 weeks. Whether it's pulling out the tight victory or getting just shy of coming away with a win, the team has had a majority of its games come down to the fourth quarter.
Thursday's Thanksgiving divisional battle with the Cowboys was no different. After coming back in the fourth quarter three separate times to get within one score, the Redskins fell to the Cowboys 31-26, unable to take the lead or to pull away with a game changing score. Ultimately the team was not able to score enough points alongside the defense not creating any turnovers against the successful rookie tandem of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
"In the National Football League games come down to that final two minutes or to decide about six to eight points and we know that. We need to get some turnovers," safety Donte Whitner Sr. said. "That football team right there, they do a really good job of taking care of the football. Dak Prescott, he's not going to put his team in harms way. He's not going to take any chances with the football being a young guy. He'd rather use his feet than to throw the ball into a tight area. Ezekiel Elliott, he hasn't been fumbling the ball lately. So it's really hard to get balls off those guys.
"If we want to take that next step, we want to win these close games, we got to get one or two turnovers to flip the momentum of the game and get the ball back to our offense whose playing well. So that's what it boils down to making one or two more plays."
Of the four losses Washington has suffered this year, three of them have come in one score games, including two defeats to Dallas. Although this most recent loss may not have come in a last-minute drive by the opponent's offense like the team saw in their loss to the Detroit Lions earlier this year, the Thanksgiving game left members of the Redskins with similar feelings of being just that close to coming away with a win. Being defeated in close scenarios as the Redskins have, doesn't get any easier, however.
"Just a couple of plays here and there. I'm not the one to point fingers to call anybody out but as a team there's just plays out there, situations happen in the game where things happen that kind of put us behind the eight-ball," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "Against a team that's playing hot like that, got a good offense going, scoring points, it's hard to really get anything going when you're shooting yourself in the foot and leaving points out there and not really capitalizing on drives."
There were several opportunities for the team to close in on the Cowboy's lead throughout the afternoon, on offense, defense and special teams. Two missed field goals by Dustin Hopkins of 43 and 55 yards in the first half left the Redskins without points after two solid drives. When recalling similar themes that have perpetuated throughout the season, Hopkins missing field goals is not one that comes to mind too often. He has made 25 of 31 attempts after starting off the season amongst the best in the league. Giving him the opportunity to attempt the longer opportunities and to try two onside kicks, however, shows head coach Jay Gruden's trust in him for the long term of the season.
Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' 2016 Week 12 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys Nov. 24, 2016, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tx.
"The 55-yarder, in a dome, I think he can make it, and I think he can make it nine times out of ten to be quite honest with you, so I've got to take the points," Gruden said. "On the onside kick, we had a look we thought we could get. We had the look exactly the way we wanted to; we just kicked it a little hard. 12-foot putt, we hit it 15 feet and putted right through the break. We just kicked it too hard, unfortunately. Those are that chances that, if we see something that's there and we practice it and we like it, we've got to take chances to do it. It can change the course of the game, the momentum and everything. I thought it was worth a chance. I told our defense we were about to do it so be ready for a short field, and, unfortunately, we didn't get off the field and they went down and scored."
Scoring on drives occurred early and often for the Cowboys. After going right down the field in about four minutes to start the game with a touchdown, the home team would go through a third quarter drought before picking it back up in the fourth quarter. On the other side, the Redskins took some time to find their comfort and groove in the game, only scoring two field goals on their first five drives and then scoring touchdowns on their final three.
While they are a myriad of reasons and different plays that could be pointed to as to why the Redskins were not able to pull off another close battle, the key to coming back and finding success in similar situations later in the year is to learn from their performance and move on.
"Winning and losing in the NFL, you know? One play here, one play there. You just have to find a way to make those plays," defensive end Chris Baker said. "Dallas did a good job at always responding when our offense responded. We just have to get better on defense and start shutting teams out. Communicate better. Everyone get on the same page and do your job. When it is time to make plays, you have to make plays and get off the field. You can't ask for anything more from our offense. They moved the ball up and down on their defense. It was just up to us on defense to make a stop, and Dallas just found a way to go out there and make plays. And they won the game because of that."