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Redskins fumble away chances against Cowboys

The Redskins were minutes away from taking over sole possession of first place in the NFC East, but they couldn't seal the deal against the Cowboys.

LANDOVER -- The first 53 minutes of the first meeting this season between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys included inept offense and excitement rivaling most church bake sales. The final seven minutes were crazed and manic.

Playmaking DeSean Jackson doing just that for both teams was central to the chaos. So were both kickers, each with a chance to make a fourth field goal. Dustin Hopkins missed his attempt for the Redskins. Dan Bailey didn't. The Dallas kicker kicked last, leaving those full-throated burgundy and gold supporters dazed and confused.

Bailey's 54-yard field goal with 14 seconds left lifted the Dallas Cowboys to a 19-16 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field Monday night and dropped Washington into a three-way tie atop the NFC East.

Hopkins provided Washington's primary offense with field goals from 44, 36 and 46 yards. The last boot put the Redskins up 9-6 with 14:19 remaining. However, he missed a 43-yarder with 7:29 remaining. Bailey kicked his third field goal on Dallas' next drive. The real drama soon followed.

Jackson scored Washington's lone touchdown on a 28-yard catch with 49 seconds left -- and 37 ticks after he fumbled his lone punt return, which included a backwards and cross-field running before the turnover. Cowboys running back Darren McFadden' scored the game's first touchdown 12 seconds later with a six-yard run.

"I kind of felt I had some open space," Jackson said. "You can always say I should've done this or I should've done that. ...Being a playmaker and trying to make a play for my team. It didn't come out my way."

Washington's top offensive threat Monday, Jackson finished with six receptions for 80 yards and his third touchdown in as many games. Momentum didn't stay with the Redskins (5-7) for long. Lucky Whitehead returned the kickoff 46 yards to midfield. Bailey's boot came five plays later, giving Dallas its first win without quarterback Tony Romo this season.

"It hurts. It's a tough loss," offensive lineman Spencer Long said, succinctly summing the overall mood in the down locker room following Washington's first home loss since Week 1.

The pain isn't just about the loss, but the missed opportunities. The Cowboys (4-8) provided help by losing three fumbles, but Washington could only turn those miscues into Hopkins' second field goal. Washington often stepped on its own foot by committing nine penalties for 73 yards.

Yet the number one missed opportunity was the loss itself. Instead of sitting alone in first place with four weeks remaining, the Redskins are tied with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, one game ahead of the Tony Romo-less Cowboys

"Yeah, it's frustrating," coach Jay Gruden said of not taking charge of the division race. "I think our guys played hard, obviously. We just had some unforced errors with the penalties."

Kirk Cousins went 22 of 31 for 219 yards and one touchdown. He finished his sixth straight home game without an interception, but the quarterback generated few interesting drives. Dealing with constant pass rush pressure, particularly through the middle of his offensive line, didn't help. Washington finished with 267 yards.

Dallas QB Matt Cassel, starting in place of the injured Romo, wildly missed receivers most of the night. That changed when Dez Bryant hauled in Cassel's perfectly thrown lofted strike with 6:32 remaining. Bryant's first catch went for 42 yards, setting up Dallas at Washington's 3-yard line, though the Cowboys settled for Bailey's third field goal.

The game started ugly and never really discovered any beauty, inner or otherwise. Each team had only one first down in the first quarter with Washington generating a mere eight yards on four drives. They went 3-and-out after taking possession at the Dallas 34-yard line following the first of two McFadden fumbles.

With a low bar set, the second quarter performances were better simply based on each side mustering a mere field goal. 

The Hopkins kick capped a 14-play, 58-yard drive that included three, third down completions by Cousins including a 14-yarder to Pierre Garcon on 3rd-and-14. Yet another conversion was wiped out when Garcon, shielding a defender with Jackson crossing in front of them, was whistled for offensive pass interference. More miscues of various kinds followed.

"We just need to be more disciplined," cornerback Will Blackmon said. "It's really tough to win games in the NFL. The little things, that's what we've got to work on. Penalties, making smart decisions, practicing harder. That's all you can say when you lose.

* Defensive end Jason Hatcher helped the defensive surge until he twice went down with injuries. After returning following an ankle tweak, Hatcher immediately exited again to get check for stinger and concussion. Fellow defensive lineman Stephen Paea was ruled out with a toe injury.

* Bryant finished with three receptions for 62 yards. The other two catches generated Dallas' only yards on its final drive.

* Washington is now even this season in turnovers after finishing plus-two. The Redskins had 17 turnovers while generating 19. Dallas entered last in turnover differential at minus-12 and lived up to the hype.

* Cousins became the first Redskins quarterback since Sonny Jurgensen in 1967 to throw at least one touchdown pass in the first 12 games.

* Washington is 1-9 in its last 10 primetime games.

* The Redskins didn't abandon the run, but they didn't generate much offense either finishing with 73 yards on 26 carries (2.8). The defense largely held the Cowboys ground game in check. Other than a 22-yard run by Whitehead, Dallas had 75 yards on 23 carries.

Ben Standig is the Publisher of Breaking Burgundy. You can find him on Twitter @benstandig and on Google+

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