Well, that was heartbreaking. It was probably the most upsetting loss the Cowboys have endured this season. A clanked field goal that would have tied the game resulted in a 20-17 loss that drops Dallas to 3-4 and puts them in a second place tie in the division. It was a whirlwind of events that led to the final, fateful moment, so here are the five plays that shaped the game.
Dak finds Rico Gathers deep, but a no-call prevents him from making the catch
After what had already been a pretty ugly game, the Cowboys got the ball on their own 14-yard line down three with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was now or never, and Dak Prescott was going to have to carry the offense down the field. After a six-yard gain from Zeke, Prescott took a shot downfield looking for Rico Gathers. If the athletic tight end came down with it, it would have been a huge gain for the offense.
But Redskins safety Deshazor Everett was draped all over Gathers, knocking him down before the ball got close. Broadcasters Jim Nantz and Tony Romo debated whether a flag should have been thrown, but the end result is that it wasn’t, and instead of a huge gain by reception or penalty, Dallas faced a third down.
Dak finds Beasley for a crucial first down, but Connor Williams’ hold overturns it
The very next play, Dak was faced with a third and four. After missing Rico, he had to move the chains or leave the field for the punt team. Taking the shotgun snap, Prescott looked and waited before he found Cole Beasley in the middle of the field for a 16 yard gain and the first down. The drive had been saved.
Except it hadn’t. Rookie guard Connor Williams was flagged for holding prior to the throw, and the first down was wiped out. Instead, it was third and 14 at Dallas’ own ten-yard line, which set them up for failure via a fumble recovered for the touchdown.
Holding on La’el Collins erases Dak’s scramble, takes time off the clock
In an effort to redeem himself after the huge mistake he made in his own endzone, Dak was desperately trying to move the ball down ten points and either get to overtime or win. He started the Cowboys offensive drive with a big hit to Geoff Swaim for a first down, but on second and ten at their own 43, Dak was forced to scramble. It turned into a huge play, gaining 15 yards and moving into Redskins territory.
However, La’el Collins was called for a hold, and the first down was taken away. Now, it was second and 20 at Dallas’ own 33. Prescott would end up getting the first down on a huge fourth down attempt and later run in for a touchdown, but this penalty slowed their drive at a time when the Cowboys needed to score as quickly as possible.
Alex Smith forgets to slide, gives the ball back to Dallas with time
After the Cowboys got their touchdown, the Redskins had the ball after the kickoff with a minute and a half left. Two successive runs from Adrian Peterson, both followed by Cowboys timeouts, and Washington was faced with a third and nine. Conventional logic would be to go down in some fashion that forced the Cowboys to use their third timeout, but as Alex Smith took the shotgun snap for a pass play and scrambled toward the sideline, he didn’t slide and was instead pushed out of bounds by Sean Lee.
This mental lapse aided the Cowboys in a big way, as it allowed them to stop the clock on fourth down and keep their third and final timeout. The ensuing punt gave them the ball at the Dallas 36 with time to do something.
Controversial snap infraction penalty costs Brett Maher and Dallas the game
For what it’s worth, Dak Prescott did just about everything he needed to do on this final drive. He moved the chains on five consecutive pass plays and put the ball on the Washington 29 for Brett Maher to hit a 47-yard field goal in the wind and send the game to overtime.
Before they could snap the ball, reliable long snapper LP Ladouceur was flagged for a snap infraction, which has sparked debate over whether or not it should have been called. Nevertheless, the Cowboys moved back five yards and attempted a 52 yard field goal, which hooked to the left right before going in and bounced off the post. As Jim Nantz said, “That goes in from 47.” Instead, the game was over.