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5 plays that shaped the Cowboys’ embarrassing loss to the Commanders

The Cowboys accomplished nothing good in their loss to the Commanders.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

The Cowboys entered their regular season finale knowing it would likely be meaningless, and it proved to be exactly that, but they still needed to play to win. Instead, Dallas looked pathetic in nearly every facet, losing 26-6 to the Commanders.

There were so many things that went wrong in this game, but these five plays in particular spelled doom for the Cowboys.

Bryan Anger can’t handle the snap

Bryan Anger has been one of the NFL’s best punters the last two years, making the Pro Bowl last year. But he made a critical mistake in this game, and it started things off poorly for Dallas.

After the Cowboys gained just 20 yards on their opening drive, Anger came out to punt. But, for whatever reason, he couldn’t handle the snap. By the time Anger scooped the ball back up, he had no room to punt and lacks the athleticism to outrun the players who were giving chase.

Anger got tackled at the Dallas 19-yard line, giving Washington excellent field position. It only took them two plays to score a touchdown. It was about the worst possible way to start the game.

KaVontae Turpin muffs fair catch

KaVontae Turpin turned heads everywhere in the preseason with two return touchdowns, but that may have unfairly inflated his expectations. And on Sunday, it was a disastrous moment for Turpin.

The Dallas defense forced a three-and-out on their second appearance of the day, and Washington was forced to punt. But Turpin, who called for a fair catch, was unable to secure the ball. It bounced off his facemask and right into the arms of the oncoming Washington player.

The Commanders ended up missing a field goal after that, but it still deprived the Cowboys of another offensive possession and officially began a snowball effect for what proved to be a truly terrible day all the way around.

Dak Prescott throws two picks in a row, but only one counts

Dak Prescott has been playing out of his mind all year, but he had easily the worst performance of the year against Washington. He never looked to be on, though the same could be said for just about every Cowboys player in this one.

A Malik Hooker interception prevented a Commanders score and kept it a 7-0 game, seemingly serving as a means to stop the bleeding for Dallas. Prescott, on second down, threw a quick out to Michael Gallup that should’ve been an easy pick six. Fortunately for Dallas, it was dropped.

Unfortunately, though, the Cowboys went right back to it on the next play - the same play, to the same area of the field - but this time to Noah Brown. This time, the ball was actually picked off and returned for six. Things only got uglier from there.

Noah Brown can’t haul in deep shot

After another missed field goal from Washington, the Cowboys still trailed 13-0. There was a faint sense that one big play might get the juices flowing again, as has been the case a little too often this season.

On second down near midfield, Prescott looked for such a play. He took a deep shot to Noah Brown, and seemingly put the ball right on Brown’s hands. But Brown wasn’t in the best position to make the catch, and he had defenders in close proximity to him, causing the ball to bounce off his hands.

It wouldn’t have been the easiest catch by any means, but it’s one Brown has to make. This was one of Prescott’s few really good passes all day, and Brown couldn’t snag it. Prescott tried a similar deep shot to CeeDee Lamb on the next play, third down, but overthrew him. If Brown makes the catch, it flips the field and sets Dallas up in perfect scoring position. Instead, they end up punting again.

Dak Prescott gets stopped on QB sneak early in the fourth quarter

After the Commanders went up 23-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys offense finally started to show signs of life. They picked up two first downs with an uptempo attack, and before long they were crossing into Commanders territory.

A play on third down came up just short, and the Cowboys hurried up to the line for a QB sneak, something Prescott excels at. After Prescott was initially stood up, a push from Tony Pollard made things close. A questionable spot from the officials led to a chain measurement, which ruled the ball short of the line to gain.

Even if the Cowboys had converted that fourth down, and gone on to score at the end of the drive, they’d be in a tough position to complete a comeback. That said, the failure on fourth down pretty much sealed the deal for the Commanders, which is why it was so strange (and maddening) to see Dallas’ starters continue to play after that point.

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