Despite a tough loss at home to a division rival, the Redskins' defense prevented the game from getting out of hand with crucial third down stops down the stretch.
In a game filled with gloomy skies and a gloomier outcome, the Washington Redskins saw a shimmer of hope during an injury-riddled loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
As members of Washington's offense started going down left and right, the otherwise healthy Dallas Cowboys started to pull away after halftime following a blocked Redskins field goal that
led to running back Ezekiel Elliott scoring on a one-yard run. The touchdown, the Dallas offense's last, occurred just before halftime and the Cowboys led 14-13 heading into the break.
In the second half, however, the Dallas offense put up 12 points, all from field goals. Throughout the entire game, the Cowboys converted five of 14 third downs, four of which came in the second half. The long drives and third down conversions kept the tired Washington defense out on the field, but when backed up against the end zone, the Burgundy and Gold refused to yield. Many of the Washington defenders echoed the same sentiment after the game.
"We just had to make sure we bend but don't break," linebacker Zach Brown said. "We can't allow them to get seven because that's what really kept us in the game. We've just got to make them kick field goals. If they get down there and get a field goal, they get nothing."
The lack of Dallas touchdowns certainly kept Washington competitive through most of the second half, but turnovers by the Redskins forced the defense to come back out on the field and try to stop Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott from chewing up the clock. Elliott gained 150 yards by the time the final whistle blew, and Prescott threw for 165 yards to seven different receivers. Nevertheless, Dallas led Washington by only seven points before a pick-six by the Cowboys' defense put the game away.
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.
"[When] we are ever in a situation like that, we just have to force the three or get the turnover," safety D.J. 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."
The lowest point of the defense came during Dallas' final drive. Following a touchdown by wide receiver Josh Doctson, the Redskins desperately needed the ball back to tie the game at 26. Head coach Jay Gruden forewent the onside kick and decided to rely on his defense to give quarterback Kirk Cousins an opportunity to score.
While the Redskins defense eventually did force the Cowboys to punt, the drive took 3 minutes and 41 seconds and Dallas punter Chris Jones pinned the Washington offense back at its own 16-yard line with 54 seconds left in the game.
"We just have to get off the field in that four-minute situation and give our offense a chance," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "They had had a good drive and scored on the previous one. We just had to give them another chance with more time on the clock."