Through the first two games of the season, the Redskins have converted on only three red zone drives while quarterback Kirk Cousins has two interceptions including a costly one against the Cowboys.
Often times in NFL games decided by one possession, a singular play can be pointed to as the turning point – for the better or for the worse.
On Sunday, it was for worse as the Washington Redskins fell to 0-2 on the year with a 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. As for the turning point, that's up for debate. However, with the Redskins leading 23-20 and less than 11 minutes left in the game, quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense had a chance to take a two-score lead.
Unfortunately, as Cousins targeted Pierre Garçon in the middle of the end zone on third down, Cowboys safety Barry Church stepped in front for an interception. Cousins was protected well on the play – which started on the Dallas six-yard line – as he had plenty of time to scan the end zone. However, when Cousins targeted Garcon, he never saw Church sliding across to intercept.
"I felt like I needed to work not off-schedule, but just needed to let the play develop a little longer," Cousins explained after the game. "Backside safety made a good play coming over. He was the one who made the play. I thought that once Pierre [Garçon] got around the near safety that I had a space in the back of the end zone between the two safeties and I could throw that ball. When you wait that long and look at it that long, that's when the backside safety is able to make their way over and that's what happened."
The interception loomed larger once Dallas followed the turnover by embarking on an 11-play touchdown drive that spanned 80 yards and took almost six minutes off the clock. Former Washington running back Alfred Morris plunged in from four yards out to give Dallas its four-point lead that it would not relinquish.
The interception underscored an afternoon where the Redskins offense struggled to convert red zone trips into touchdowns. Washington made six appearances inside the Cowboys' 20-yard line, but scored just two touchdowns and kicked three field goals. Cousins' interception marked one of three of the Redskins' drives that stalled inside the Dallas 11-yard line.
"That's what's causing us to lose right now," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "We're 0-2 at home. We're just sticking ourselves in the foot with a knife. We had some great opportunities driving the ball down the field and just came up short."
For Cousins, it's another chapter in his life as a quarterback in the NFL. It's certainly the most talked about position in the league, and probably in all of professional sports. Although his interception was costly, it was far from the only reason the Redskins lost the game.
There were eight more penalties committed by the Redskins after nine in Week 1, including two costly flags during Dallas' game-winning drive, among other mistakes. Washington head coach Jay Gruden made it clear after the game that the team couldn't, "put it all on Kirk."
"We've got the New York Giants as soon as we leave here, so he can watch the tape, find out what's going on if he's not sure what the indecision might be, why he's missing some throws, but you know, it's a tough game," Gruden said. "He's got people around his feet. He's got to make some tough throws and usually ones he would normally hit but he missed a few today. We'll coach him up.
"There's a lot of other issues that we had today, that's for sure—coaching, playing, offense, defense, we all had our hand in that one."
Nevertheless, Cousins and his teammates believe that they're better than what they've shown. Although Washington is now 3-for-10 in the red zone this season, getting to the red zone 10 times in two games is impressive. Cousins has also thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the first two games this season.
"We feel like we can be better in the red zone," Cousins said. "It's the same thing in any game when you come up short or when you win. You can go back and point to red zone offense or converting third downs or protecting the football. It's reasons for a win or a loss. Right now in those areas, I don't know if we're good enough or if we've been good enough. I think what's disappointing is we feel like there is the talent, there is the capability to be very good in those areas and we've shown that."