With less than four days to recover and prepare, The Washington Redskins did their best to upset the team with the best record in the NFL but came up a possession short in a 31-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Here are the highlights from Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins's post-game press conferences.
Washington was 2-for-5 in the red zone, including 0-for-3 to begin the game. Now 20-for-46 on the year, (43 percent), the Redskins have still not figured out how to move the ball as effectively inside the 20 as outside of it. Gruden and Cousins discussed the scoring woes.
"They played good defense down there," Gruden said of the Cowboys. "They have a good red zone defense. We had some good jobs. We didn't finish in the red zone. Twenty-seven points should be good enough to win in the NFL, but it wasn't today against a very good offense. Hats off to the Cowboys. [Dak Prescott] had another great game. We were not good enough today."
"There's not one reason that is just the overarching fix-all," Cousins said. "Each play has it's own reasons. We have to go back and watch the film and learn from it and be coached and we will spend more time on it at practice, try to be better."
Gruden addressed his decision to attempt a first-and-goal wildcat play with Robert Kelley to start the second quarter, a 55-yard field goal try into the glaring sun with four minutes left in the first half, and a surprise onside kick after cutting the deficit to 24-19 with more than nine minutes to play.
"We had a look and [Dallas] didn't get lined up right. [Cowboys safety Byron Jones] didn't get lined up right. We didn't get him targeted and he knifed right through there and made a play."
On the field goal: "FIfty-five-yarder in a dome with [Dustin Hopkins], I think he can make it. I think he can make it nine times out of 10 to be quite honest with you, so I got to take the points. The ball hit the net I think, so he's got plenty of leg, he just pushed it." The head coach later added that he is not worried about Hopkins after he missed two field goals Thursday.
"The onside kick, there was a look I thought we could get. We had the look exactly we wanted to, but we just kicked it a little hard. Twleve-foot putt, we hit it 15 feet. If we see something that's there and we practice it and we like it, we have to take chances to do it. We think it could change the course of the game, momentum and everything. Thought it was worth the chance. I told our defense we're about to do it so be ready for a short field and, unfortunately, we didn't get off the field and they went down and scored."
For a team that played last Sunday night and participated in nothing more than three walk-throughs during the week before flying to play a Thursday day game, the Redskins actually fared pretty well. Gruden discussed how he thought the team as a whole endured the adversity.
"I think they handled it great. We got a lot of work in Tuesday, Wednesday, then flying on a plane and playing here on Thanksgiving after a night game on Sunday was hard on these players -- and coaches for that matter trying to get a game plan together -- but they did it. They were prepared. They were ready mentally and physically."
Cornerback Kendall Fuller has not played his best football over the past three weeks. The rookie had a tough time against Stefon Diggs and Randall Cobb before running into Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant today. Beasley converted a critical third-and-14 against Fuller, and Bryant had a couple of big-play receptions from the slot. Despite the struggles, Gruden continues to back his third-round pick.
"I don't know about a rookie wall, but they have some good receivers. And they put Dez [in the slot] and [Fuller] was matched up with Dez a couple times. Beasley obviously is one of the premier slot receivers in there, so [Fuller] is going to struggle from time to time, but I think he did some good things, too. We are going to continue to push Kendall and he is going to continue to be a good player for us for a very long time. You are not going to come in and be Deion Sanders in your first year."
Speaking of Dez Bryant, he and Josh Norman got into a scuffle after the game. Bryant then took to Twitter to stir the pot some more. When you consider Bryant only had two catches for 19 yards when facing Norman today, Gruden is right to not care about the situation.
"I didn't see it and I don't care. Those two guys are great competitors. Both of them are great players and I'm sure I'll read about it on Twitter."
Here's your weekly Gruden evaluation of Cousins, who looks like a quarterback who is going to get paid in a big way after this season.
"Kirk, I thought he played well. There was a stint in the second quarter when we missed some opportunities; the sun was in his eyes, he couldn't see very well. That's not an excuse. It's just a fact. Overall, I think he competed. In known passing situations, he stood in the pocket, made some big-time throws. I think he threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. On a typical day, that's good enough. We have to do better in the red zone early in games. Overall, I think Kirk had another pretty good day."
Tight end Jordan Reed was certainly a bright spot. He missed most of the first half with a separated shoulder. In a major turn of events, Reed returned to the field in the second half and balled out to the tune of 10 receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Gruden and Cousins praised the tight end's effort to help the team.
"I'm really impressed with Jordan, really impressed with Brandon [Scherff] also," Gruden said. "Ordinary guys probably would not have come back in, but those two guys are extraordinary people and players and they both fought through injuries. Speaking for Jordan's behalf, he came in and didn't think he'd come back, but he came back and made some huge plays for us."
"I did not expect him to," Cousins said of Reed playing in the second half. "I was a little bit surprised that he [did]. He can't watch; he wants to play. That's always been his approach. He's a great player. I was happy that he came back, but I told him, 'You got a lot of good football years ahead of you, so let's not waste one or two. Let's not waste future years for one of two games.' He's a fighter and there are a lot of guys on this team that are the same way."
Defensive end Anthony Lanier left the game with a left leg contusion while offensive linemen Scherff (ankle sprain) and Shawn Lauvao (wrist sprain) played through their injuries. Gruden is giving his team three days off, so the Redskins will begin to prepare for the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.
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