SEABROOK – Coming out of halftime on Sept. 15, the Washington Redskins defense did what they did last week at the beginning of the third quarter — allow the opponent to easily march the ball down the field.
After Washington’s first touchdown, Dallas scored 21 unanswered points to take control of the game, defeating the Redskins 31-21 in their home opener at FedExField. The loss to Dallas makes Washington both 0-2 in overall record and in the NFC East Division.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 269 yards and three touchdowns while running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.
Washington opened up the scoring in the game, turning an early Prescott interception by Montae Nicholson into a 10-play, 38-yard drive capped off by an 1-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson. The Cowboys quickly took control soon after, scoring three unanswered touchdowns.
Similar to last week’s loss against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins started fast, but the defense gave up big plays and long drives to their opponent. While the Redskins defense was missing a few starters, including defensive end Jonathan Allen, Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden downplayed the injuries effect on the outcome of the game.
“We have to look at ourselves, and we have to play better,” Gruden said. “We’re minus a couple of pieces in the secondary, that has an issue. But really, we should be better than this.”
The Redskins poor defensive showing was perhaps epitomized by Dallas’ first touchdown drive which began on their 3-yard line and ended with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Devin Smith. Smith, who had not caught a regular-season pass since 2016, beat Washington cornerback Josh Norman on the touchdown pass.
“We did a good job at what we wanted to do as far as receiver-wise,” Norman said. “It’s just some of those plays on third downs that kind of broke our back.”
Washington quarterback Case Keenum threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Peterson, after being benched during Week One, rushed for 25 yards on 10 attempts as the Washington rushing attack was limited to 47 yards.
The Redskins’ opportunity for a comeback ended quickly after halftime.
Down 14 points in the third quarter, Washington managed an 11-play, 75-yard drive, where Keenum converted a crucial fourth and seven play to wide receiver Trey Quinn. The drive ended on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Paul Richardson Jr. who evaded a Dallas defender and dove into the end zone, making the score 21-14 after a made Dustin Hopkins extra point.
But a Dallas field goal on the ensuing possession followed by a Washington drive that ended on a failed fourth down conversion ended the Redskins best chance at a comeback. Following Washington’s failed drive, the Cowboys once again marched down the field, setting up Elliott for a 2-yard touchdown run to make the score 31-14 and put the game away.
“There were times when we struggled, but Dallas has some really great players and they did a great job adjusting to some of the success we had,” Keenum said. “It feels like a lot of it is us stopping ourselves.”
Washington responded late in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin to reduce its deficit to 10. With a 1:07 remaining on a third and five situation, Elliott broke for a 27-yard gain and first down which allowed the Cowboys to run down the rest of the game clock.
“We have a young football team that’s going to develop and grow,” Gruden said. “We need veterans to step up and take this team by the throat and I think it will happen.”
One of the few bright spots for Washington was Peterson, whose first-quarter score moved him up to fifth all-time in rushing touchdowns, surpassing Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.
Next up for the Redskins is taking on the Chicago Bears at home on Sept. 23.