Losing 37-36 to the Packers lost week in AT&T Stadium, many predicted the 2013 Dallas Cowboys were history after blowing a 23-point halftime lead.
Instead of this Week 16 matchup possibly being for the division, the Cowboys were now needing a win in Washington to die another day.
December 22nd wasn’t their time to go.
Washington began the game with the football and promptly went three and out. Dallas’ newly signed punt returner Michael Spurlock returned a Sav Rocca 45 yard punt 62 yards to the Redskins 3 yard line. On 2nd and goal, DeMarco Murray rushed it in for a 7-0 lead after Dan Bailey’s successful point after.
Washington backed Dallas up to their own 2 yard line, which led to a three and out. The Redskins then drove the ball 20 yards and in range for a 36 yard Kai Forbath field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
The Cowboys closed out the first quarter with an unsuccessful drive and backed Washington up to their own 21. The Redskins drove down the field and threatened to score a touchdown inside the Cowboys’ own 5 yard line. After two untimely penalties, the Redskins had to settle for a 22 yard Kai Forbath field goal that cut the lead to 7-6 Cowboys.
On the following series, with poor field position at their own 7 yard line, DeMarco Murray busted a 43 yard run that helped set up a 31 yard pass to Dez Bryant to put Dallas inside Washington’s red zone two plays later. On a 3rd and 9 from the Redskins 14, Tony Romo pirouetted out of an oncoming Brandon Merriweather blitzes to find Dez Bryant in the back of the end zone to put Dallas up further 14-6 after the extra point.
Washington responded with big catches by Pierre Garcon of 26 yards and 12 yards to put Washington in position at the Dallas 28 yard line with a minute remaining in the first half. After two straight incompletions, undrafted rookie safety Jeff Heath intercepted a ball that bounced off of wide receiver Santana Moss’ hands. Dallas obliterated the Redskins’ march and went into halftime after a 7 yard DeMarco Murray scamper.
Coming out of the gate for the second half, DeMarco Murray ran for 10 yards. It was a promising drive until fullback Tyler Clutts fumbled a swing pass, recovered by Washington. Garcon was the big player on this drive, as he caught a 10 yard pass and then an 8 yard touchdown on 3rd and goal. It was the same play run on 2nd down that Brandon Carr knocked away incomplete. This cut the lead to 14-13 Cowboys.
On the next series, after Dez Bryant caught a 10 yard pass, Beasley went 9 yards on a screen, and Murray gained 1 yard to convert the down, Tony Romo threw an interception to Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who had inside positioning on a fallen Dez Bryant. The Redskins 47 yards in 7 plays to take their first lead of the game, 20-14 after Forbath’s point after.
When Dallas got the ball back, they couldn’t advance it, going three and out, abandoning the run. When the Redskins got the ball back, they were 3rd and 13 from their own 47. Santana Moss caught a pass short of the marker, tackled by Orlando Scandrick. But rookie safety J.J. Wilcox flew in and smashed Moss for an additional 15 yards that extended the drive. Washington didn’t convert another first down, but Kai Forbath nailed a 48-yarder to make it 23-14 Redskins at the start of the fourth quarter.
Dallas responded with an 8:47 drive of their own that ended in a field goal to cut the lead to 23-17 Redskins. With 6:05 left in the game, Dallas needed a stop. They didn’t get it on the first set of downs, but Orlando Scandrick came up big knocking away a slant pass for Pierre Garcon.
Sav Rocca legitimately shanked a punt, but the ball bounced oddly and rolled down the sideline to give Dallas Cowboys’ their final possession at their own 13.
The first play was an incomplete pass for Terrance Williams. The rookie wideout from Baylor, and ex-RG3 teammate, came up with a 15 yard catch to move the chains. From their own 28, Tony Romo found Dez Bryant, but DeAngelo Hall swooped in to knock the pass out of bounds. On 2nd and 10, Romo evaded pressure like a matador, and threw a deep ball that would make Al Davis proud to Terrance Williams 51 yards down field. Romo then hit Bryant on a smoke screen that went for 17, the passionate man-child dancing along the sideline down to the Washington 4 yard line for a dramatic goal-to-go series.
On first down, DeMarco Murray got 75% of the needed yards with a 3 yard run. Scoring looked like it was going to come easy, giving Washington the full two minutes to respond with a field goal. On second and goal, Murray gained nothing, only burning the last of Washington’s timeouts. On third and goal, Murray tried one of his famous cutbacks, but it lost the Cowboys 9 yards.
It was fourth and goal from the Washington 10.
After a timeout, Romo took the ball from shotgun. He evaded pressure and stepped up and scanned the field.
It was only 357 days ago that Romo evaded pressure and looked for DeMarco Murray. Instead, Rob Jackson got Romo’s third interception and his team the NFC East crown.
This time, Redskins defenders were oblivious to DeMarco Murray flaring into the right flat. He caught Romo’s pass and dove for the end zone.
Touchdown, Dallas Cowboys.
After the point after try, which Dan Bailey narrowly missed, Dallas took a 24-23 lead. Washington went four and out the next drive, giving Dallas forty seconds to run out the clock. America’s Whipping Boy took a knee, setting his team up for a high stakes NFC East title game for the third year in a row.
Romo finished 17/27 for 226 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. DeMarco Murray rushed 22 times for 96 yards and also scored a rushing touchdown in addition to his 3 catches for 15 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Terrance Williams was the leading receiver with 4 catches for 84 yards, though Dez Bryant’s 4 catches earned 73 yards and a touchdown.
Cole Beasley had 2 catches for 29 yards, Jason Witten had 2 for 13 yards, and Miles Austin made a sighting with an 8 yard catch to convert the downs.
Dan Bailey went 1/1 on field goals and 3/3 on extra points. His counterpart, Kai Forbath, went 3/3 on field goals and 2/2 on extra points.
Kirk Cousins had a respectable third start going 21/36 for 197 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Alfred Morris carried the ball 24 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. Pierre Garcon led all Redskins receivers, and it wasn’t even close catching 11 passes for 144 yards and 1 touchdown. Santana Moss, Logan Paulsen, Roy Helu, and Darrell Young each had 2 catches.
Cowboys safety Jeff Heath came up with an interception. Washington’s defense had 2 sacks and also an interception.
The safe bet is the NFL flexes the Eagles-Cowboys matchup for Sunday night next week on NBC, regardless of how Philadelphia performs tonight.
We haven’t run out of history yet.