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Cowboys @ Redskins: Five Critical Plays That Decided The Game

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Five plays that were critical in deciding the outcome of the Cowboys 27-23 victory over the Redskins.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Each NFL game is made up of about 125 to 135 plays, usually the ones that get all of the attention are the headline-grabbing touchdowns or game-deciding plays in the last few minutes, but what about all of the crucial plays that led up to those moments? What about the overlooked plays that had a significant bearing on the direction of the game but are usually forgotten in favor of flashy highlights? Here is a look at five plays that may get lost in the wash, but ultimately were critical in deciding the Cowboys 27-23 victory over the Redskins.

Play: Incomplete Pass to Jamison Crowder

Situation: Third and 7 from the Cowboys 38

Score: Cowboys lead 3-0

Time: 7:08 left in the first quarter

Impact: Usually an overthrown pass in the first quarter isn’t a major play but this was an indication of what was to come on the day from Kirk Cousins. Crowder was wide open behind Barry Church and Sean Lee for an easy walk-in touchdown but Cousins overshot him by a good five yards. Cousins remained erratic and struggled with his accuracy throughout the first half, and while he did improve in the second half, he was completely oblivious as to where the coverage was on Barry Church’s interception, which breathed new life into the Cowboys. Aside from keeping an easy seven points off the board this play also ended a potential scoring drive in Cowboys territory as the Redskins were forced to punt on the next play.

Play: Geoff Swaim Reception

Situation: Fourth and one from the Redskins 30

Score: Cowboys lead 3-0

Time: 2:49 left in the first quarter

Impact: After failing to convert yet another red zone opportunity into a touchdown on an impressive opening drive the Cowboys found themselves facing the exact same situation as they did a week earlier against the Giants, namely that they would only have a 6-0 lead following two long, time-consuming drives to start the game. Instead of sending out Dan Bailey for what assuredly would have been an automatic three, Jason Garrett decided to roll the dice here with a Dak Prescott bootleg on fourth and a yard. Instead of drawing up a play for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, or Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott found backup tight end Geoff Swaim for a 28-yard gain. It was an aggressive play-call and an even better play by Prescott who made an accurate throw with two unblocked Redskins in his face. Two plays later Elliott slammed into the end zone for the score.

Play: Josh Doctson Reception

Situation: First and 10 from the Redskins 21

Score: Redskins lead 23-20

Time: 12:46 left in the fourth quarter

Impact: After what looked like a busted coverage by Brandon Carr, Doctson was left wide open 50 yards down field for an easy reception. Byron Jones made a great hustle play, tracking back all the way from the Redskins 28 to make the touchdown saving tackle as he was the last defender who had a chance to make the play. The Redskins had all the momentum at this point and some players may not have sprinted back at full speed, but Jones did, and five plays later Barry Church came up with an interception that immediately gave momentum back to the Cowboys. Without the hustle play from Jones we’re looking at a 30-20 Redskins lead and a very different game.

Play: Doug Free Fumble Recovery

Situation: First and 10 from the Redskins 23

Score: Redskins lead 23-20

Time: 6:56 left in the fourth quarter

Impact: Driving deep in Redskins territory with a chance to at least tie the game, if not take the lead, Ezekiel Elliott fumbled for the second time on the day. This time the Cowboys were lucky enough to recover, but Elliott wasn’t so lucky as he was replaced by Alfred Morris and did not see another snap for the rest of the game. Four plays later it was the former Redskin Morris who scored the game-winning touchdown, and not Elliott.

Play: Cole Beasley Reception

Situation: Third and 11 from the Redskins 24

Score: Redskins lead 23-20

Time: 6:04 left in the fourth quarter

Impact: Only two plays after recovering the Elliott fumble the Cowboys were faced with a critical third and long as they hoped to capitalize by taking the lead, and not just settle for a field goal. On second down Dez dropped a pass that hit him right in the hands for what would have been a near first down, but the ball was punched out by Josh Norman as Bryant was going to the ground. Unfazed by the drop, Prescott came right back in an empty backfield with a strike to Cole Beasley for the first down along the left sideline. It doesn’t get any more impressive than converting a third and 11 as a rookie on the road in your second career start under these circumstances. As mentioned previously, just two plays later Alfred Morris scored the game-winning touchdown as the right side of the offensive line collapsed the Redskins defensive line.