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Five Takeaways: Redskins-Cowboys

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Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' Week 8 game against the Dallas Cowboys that took place at FedExField in Landover, Md.


1. Redskins fought through injuries and bad elements, but were unable to capitalize on an early lead.
While all 32 NFL teams are battling injuries to key players right now, perhaps no team is more banged up right now than the Redskins.

Washington had three starting offensive linemen inactive for the game in Trent Williams, Spencer Long and Brandon Scherff. The Redskins returned cornerback Josh Norman to the field, but Bashaud Breeland's was sidelined with pain from a knee injury he suffered two weeks ago against the San Francisco 49ers.

While the Redskins were able to get rookies Tyler Catalina and Chase Roullier the first significant action of their careers, Shawn Lauvao would go down with an injury of his own in the third quarter. Then late in the game, backup tackle T.J. Clemmings suffered an ankle injury.

The final offensive series of the game highlighted just how many injuries the Redskins have right now. The offensive line consisted of two rookies and two players signed during the week along with Morgan Moses. Washington was also down to just one healthy tight end, as both Jordan Reed and Niles Paul were removed from the game.

"It is mind boggling," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden about the mounting number of injuries. "I just hope these guys get well. These guys lay it all on the line for it, they practice hard, they have been doing it all right with their bodies, with the weight room, they get themselves ready to play, it's just one after another, two tight ends go down in the same half for games – it's crazy. I just want these guys to get well. That all I care about. If we can get those guys dressed up, play and compete."

Despite the injuries, the Redskins jumped out to the lead on two different occasions in the first quarter.

Nick Rose converted on a 38-yard field goal try to put the Redskins up 3-0 early. Then after an Ezekiel Elliott 13-yard touchdown, Rob Kelley answered with a rushing touchdown of his own.

Washington nearly went up 16-7 in the second quarter, but a blocked field goal by the Cowboys swung momentum in their favor. Elliott would score from one-yard out just before halftime, and Dallas never looked back in a 33-19 victory for the Cowboys.

"We've got to recover," Gruden said. "We're 3-4. There's still a lot of ball left to play. Seattle's in the playoff hunt, Minnesota's in the playoff hunt, and New Orleans in the playoff hunt. Tough three games in front of us but if we take care of business, we can be right back in it."

2. The blocked field goal in the second quarter changed the dynamic of the game.
As the rain picked up shortly after the opening kickoff, it became clear that points were likely going to be hard to come by at times.

That was evident midway through the second quarter, as the Redskins led just 13-7 despite both offenses registering some big gains.

With a little more than three minutes left in the frame, Washington's offense stalled out at the Dallas 18-yard line on a drive that originated from its own 27-yard line.  

Rose came out seeking his third conversion on the night, but a low snap in the rain made it difficult for Tress Way to get a proper hold on the ball. While the punter would eventually get the ball in position for Rose's kick, the attempt was blocked and returned 86 yards. Two more yards were tacked on at the end of the runback on a low block call on Way.

The Cowboys took advantage of the miscue with an Elliot one-yard touchdown run two plays later.

"We could have gone up by nine. Instead, they got the ball at our one-yard line," Gruden said. "That was a big one. …Usually those three guys [the specialists], those guys are pretty solid with their hold and snap."

The blocked field goal was also the first of three turnovers for the Redskins, as Trent Williams fumbled on the first drive of the third quarter. The Cowboys would generate three points off the miscue, only to have Chris Thompson fumble the ensuing kickoff.

"I fumbled the kickoff return, so it was a lot of things that happened that gave them all the momentum they needed," Thompson said. "They just kept their foot on the gas and we've got to find a way to be better. I've got to hold on to the ball. I'll fix that. Just got to find a way."

3. The defense held strong in the second half despite being placed in tough situations.
With the turnovers came short field for the Redskins' defense to defend. Following the two fumbles, Dallas started drives from Washington's 45- and 26-yard lines respectively.

Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' defense in their 2017 Week 8 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys Oct. 29, 2017, at FedExField.

Both times, the Redskins held strong to only allow field goals. In fact, Dallas' first four drives in the second half all ended in field goals.

While it was an "extremely tough" spot the defense was put in over and over, safety D.J. Swearinger said the unit takes pride in not breaking.

"[When] we are ever in a situation like that, we just have to force the three or get the turnover," Swearinger said. "Three or nothing is what we always say. I think we did a good job of forcing the three both times and we just have to do a better job of complementary football, all phases working together so we can be better."

After the Redskins scored late in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to just seven points, Washington's defense came back on the field seeking to get the ball back in the offense's hands. While the Redskins were able to force a punt, they had to burn all three timeouts as the Cowboys took nearly four minutes off the clock.

"We just have to get off the field in that four minute situation and give our offense a chance," said Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. "They have had a good drive and scored on the previous one. We just had to give them another chance with more time on the clock."

4. With the injuries, the Redskins had to alter the play calling.
With previous success in two- and three-tight end sets, the Redskins were looking to make it a staple of their gameplan for Sunday's game against the Cowboys. But those plans were quickly altered after Paul suffered a concussion in the second quarter and then Reed later was downgraded to out with a hamstring injury.

Jeremy Sprinkle was inactive for the game, so that left Vernon Davis as the only tight end for most of the game.

"Your list has shrunk about a quarter because we had a lot of two-tight-end, three-tight-end sets ready for this game and we lost both of those pretty early – at least Niles early in the game," Gruden said. "It was a challenge, but we have enough plays that we can adjust and hopefully function, which we cut it to seven and had a chance there with the ball but couldn't get it done. Couldn't get it back in time."

5. Jamison Crowder finally has the breakout game the team was looking for out of him.
While the Redskins have preached a multiple-receiver effort for this version of their offense, Crowder struggled to get it going early this year.

Through Washington's first six games, Crowder had just 19 catches for 149 yards.

It was a different story on Sunday, though, as Crowder recorded season highs in both receptions (nine) and receiving yards (123).

It was the first time Crowder eclipsed the 100-yard mark since Week 11 of the 2016 season. His nine receptions also tied a career-high.

Crowder had the offense's two biggest plays on a rainy afternoon, catches passes for 41 and 26 yards. 

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