Ryan Kerrigan popped up off the FedExField grass, took a few steps forward and posed as if he were WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels. He had just brought down quarterback Dak Prescott early in the second quarter of the Redskins' home opener on Sunday, and he celebrated with his well-known sack dance -- the HBK.
Washington had stifled the visiting Dallas Cowboys up until that point in the game. On their first three series, the Cowboys gained 36 yards on 12 plays. They went three-and-out on their first drive, then turned the ball over on an interception from Prescott. Safety Montae Nicholson returned the ball inside the Cowboys' 40-yard line, and the Redskins opened the scoring on the ensuing possession.
Then came Kerrigan's sack. Then another punt.
However, that would be the last of the Cowboys' offensive struggles. They scored on each of their next five possessions -- four touchdowns and a field goal -- to take a 17-point lead late in the fourth quarter and eventually hold on, 31-21.
"Offensively, it's the penalties that killed us on those couple drives," head coach Jay Gruden said. "Defensively, we gave up another big play on a post route. Then the drive to start the second half, they ate up clock and knocked it down our throats; good game plan by them. [Cowboys offensive coordinator] Kellen Moore did a great job offensively, and credit to [head] coach [Jason] Garrett, their staff and players."
To Washington quarterback Case Keenum, the sequences that occurred after Kerrigan's sack largely changed the complexion of the game. Upon getting the ball back up 7-0, the Redskins moved into Dallas territory by way of a roughing the passer penalty. They gained five more yards on an encroachment penalty.
But on the next play, a seven-yard run by Wendell Smallwood, the referees called offensive holding on right guard Brandon Scherff, one of five first-half penalties for the hosts. Two plays later, Keenum took his only sack of the game for a 13-yard loss.
While Tress Way pinned Dallas (2-0 NFC East, 2-0 overall) inside their own 5-yard line with a booming punt, the Cowboys methodically distanced themselves from their own end zone and then took a shot down field. Devin Smith beat corner Josh Norman to the inside on a post route, and Prescott hit his open receiver for an easy 51-yard score to tie the game.
Following a Redskins' three-and-out, their defense were again unsuccessful in stopping the Cowboys' revamped attack.
Prescott (26-for-30, 269 yards and three touchdowns) led the unit on an 11-play touchdown drive spanning 83 yards. The possession included a 42-yard quarterback keep from Prescott on third down and several rushes from Ezekiel Elliott, who finished with 23 carries for 111 yards and a score. Nine seconds before halftime, tight end Jason Witten's two-yard reception gave Dallas its first lead at 14-7.
"We go back and take away those explosive plays, it's a different ballgame," middle linebacker Jon Bostic said. "We gotta get back to watching film, gotta be critical of ourselves. Gotta continue to work."
These defense struggles did not go away after intermission, as Dallas increased its lead to double-digits with a nine-play, 75-yard drive to start the third quarter. And while the Redskins responded with their own impressive drive -- going 75 yards in 11 plays -- the Cowboys struck back with a field goal and then a fourth touchdown courtesy of Elliott.
Offensively, the Redskins (0-2 NFC East, 0-2 overall) were competent. Keenum made a few risky decisions but was largely productive, finishing 26 of 37 passing for 269 yards. Rookie Terry McLaurin made five receptions and caught his second-career touchdown, while fellow wideout Paul Richardson found the end zone as well. The offensive line, meanwhile, has allowed just two sacks in as many games.
Still, none of these statistics were enough for Washington to pick up its first win of the 2019 campaign. Its next opportunity will come next Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
"We got 14 more games to get better," rookie corner Jimmy Moreland said. "Hopefully we can come out with the right mindset Monday night."