It’s finally over. The nightmare that has been the 2015 Dallas Cowboys season ended today with a 34-23 home loss to the NFC East champion Redskins.
Washington would strike first after three consecutive punts to start the game. Starting from their 49, it took just two plays for Kirk Cousins to find the end zone. First he connected with Jamison Crowder for 44 yards, before following it up with a touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryan Grant.
The Redskins would then turn a Kellen Moore interception into another touchdown as the Cowboys picked up their first, first down of the game before being forced into a third and long. Moore sailed a pass too far past Jason Witten, and Will Compton intercepted it with a return to the Dallas 43.
Three plays later, Pierre Garcon burnt Deji Olatoye for a bomb of a touchdown, and the Redskins led 14-0. The Cowboys would yet again turn it over on the next drive, as a big run by McFadden was followed by a fumbled snap and Redskins recovery.
Crowder would go in for Washington’s third TD of the day, as they jumped ahead 21-0. The Cowboys would then avoid a turnover but still be forced to punt. It led to a long drive resulting in a Redskins field goal, as they went up 24-0 with just over eight minutes to play in the half.
Moore and the Cowboys would respond with their first points of the day on a nine play drive sparked by a fake punt to Jeff Heath. On the first series, Heath caught the direct snap and pushed through the middle to move the chains. Terrance Williams, who had a huge game when it mattered the least, picked up a 36-yard reception to set up first and goal.
Three plays later, Jason Witten was in for a touchdown on a play that required a challenge from Jason Garrett. After the review, Dallas trailed 24-7. They would add another touchdown before the half, as Colt McCoy replaced Cousins on the next drive and promptly went three and out.
Moore completed seven straight passes to march the Cowboys 86 yards and cut the Redskins lead to 10 with a strike to Cole Beasley for a touchdown.
However, this would be as close as the Cowboys would get. After the teams traded punts to open the second half, another clock-killing drive by Washington led to another field goal to extend the lead to 27-14. These would be the only points of the third quarter, as the Cowboys ran just seven plays on offense in the third.
Washington all but sealed the deal on the first play of the fourth, as a blown coverage allowed Rashad Ross to run uncontested downfield for a 71-yard score. Trailing now by 20, the Cowboys would appear to be driving on their way to answer with a touchdown.
The drive would end at the two-yard line though, as Moore was intercepted for the second time. Will Blackmon brought the ball back to the line of scrimmage, where the Redskins would have it backed up.
Alfred Morris would take a carry in the end zone, and the Cowboys defense swarmed to him – forcing a safety. With the score at 34-16, Dallas went back on offense at the 33. Darren McFadden appeared to have a touchdown on a third and ten toss, which would have been the first third-down conversion of the game for the Cowboys, but instead fumbled the ball into the end zone.
The resulting touchback was not only a microcosm of this lost season for the Cowboys, but it put the nail in the coffin for their 12th loss of the year. The Cowboys would force another punt, which did lead to Beasley’s second TD of the day – and Moore’s third – but that was as close as they got.
The 34-23 final sent the Redskins to the playoffs on the right side of momentum, ending the year at 9-7.
The Cowboys now look ahead to a long offseason full of decisions, as well as a high draft pick. If the Chargers defeat the Broncos, they will hold the third overall pick. If the Broncos will, they will still secure the fourth spot in the 2016 NFL Draft.