ARLINGTON, Texas -- This was an embarrassing performance on a big stage for the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. The 38-31 loss to the Washington Redskins has now put the Cowboys' playoffs hopes in dire straits.
You don't get credit for the second-half comeback or for playing hard in the NFL. You get credit for victories, and the Cowboys didn't get one Thursday.
With five games remaining in the regular season, the Cowboys might have to win out and get some help, hoping the New York Giants lose at least two games, to possibly win the division. It might not be enough if the Cowboys win four of their next five games. And guess what? The Redskins (5-6) are tied with the Cowboys for second place in the division and own the tiebreaker, head-to-head.
The season appears to be over, unofficially.
What it means: The Cowboys haven't won three consecutive games since the middle of the 2011 season, when they ripped off four consecutive in November. The two-game winning streak is a thing of the past now, and the Cowboys will have nine days off to reflect on what might have been if they'd swept this three-game stretch in which they didn't play a team with a winning record.
More injuries: The Cowboys lost linebacker Bruce Carter (elbow) in the fourth quarter and wide receiver Miles Austin (hip) and cornerback Orlando Scandrick (broken hand) in the first half to injuries. At one point during this game, the Cowboys' injury list included Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman, Sean Lee, Barry Church, Tyron Smith, Phil Costa, DeMarco Murray, Austin and Scandrick. We're not making excuses, but the Cowboys are hurting without their regulars.
What happened in the first half? This game got away from the Cowboys in the first half. The Cowboys' fans booed them on Thanksgiving Day as they walked off the field at halftime down 28-3. Big plays killed the Cowboys. Wide receiver and SMU product Aldrick Robinson caught a 68-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III. Robinson ran past Brandon Carr and Danny McCray on a pass that appeared to be overthrown. But Robinson caught the ball in stride for a 7-3 Redskins lead. The second Redskins score was set up by a Griffin play-action pass that froze the defense. Griffin is so good at these because he does a nice job of messing up the defense with the fake. He found Pierre Garcon on a slant for 19 yards to convert a second-and-3. Two plays later, Alfred Morris scores from the 1 for a 14-3 lead. The game was secured on a 59-yard reception by Garcon in which he caught a pass behind him and outran the defenders to the end zone. What was interesting on the play was that Charlie Peprah blitzed from the slot, and after Garcon caught the pass, Carr fell down. If he doesn't slip, he has a chance to make an open-field tackle. Garcon's score made it 21-3.
Who kept Cowboys in it? Dez Bryant and Tony Romo. Bryant caught eight passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns. Romo, in comeback mode, had career highs with 441 yards and 62 pass attempts. But Bryant and Romo weren't alone. Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris also contributed. Beasley had seven catches for 68 yards and Harris caught four for 71.
Kick settles it: The Cowboys made this a one-possession game, but one of their former kickers, Kai Forbath -- who didn't kick for the team because he was nursing a leg injury -- made a 48-yarder with 2:58 to play, extending the Redskins' lead to 38-28. It ended an 11-play, 50-yard drive that lasted 5:20. One of the key plays was a missed open-field tackle by McCray on Leonard Hankerson on a second-and-9 play.