WASHINGTON — Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel and wide receiver Dez Bryant both described Dallas’ dramatic win over the Washington Redskins on Monday night using the word “crazy.”
They might as well have been talking about the NFC East race.
Dan Bailey kicked a 54-yard field goal with nine seconds left to cap a furious final two minutes that also included a touchdown by each team, and the Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins 19-16.
Following a weekend when little went as predicted, the Cowboys (4-8) now find themselves one-game behind the 5-7 Redskins, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s a crazy game, man. This is a crazy game. We battled and we got the W,” said Bryant, later adding, “We’ve got everything to win and everything to lose. It’s right there.”
With the score tied at 16, the Cowboys’ Lucky Whitehead returned a kickoff 45 yards to the Dallas 43 with 37 seconds left. Two completions from Cassel to Bryant picked up 20 yards.
Two incompletions followed, but Bailey’s kick was good with a few yards to spare.
“That was one of crazier games I’ve ever been a part of,” Cassel said. “The emotional roller coaster that you go through is pretty intense, but I thought that the way our team finished and the resilience we showed, it says a lot about the character of this team.”
Washington, which saw its five-game home winning streak end, tied the score at 16 on a 28-yard pass from
quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver DeSean Jackson with 44 seconds left, but it proved to be enough time for Dallas.
“The margin for error in this league is so small,” Cousins said. “You know if you leave any time on the clock … anything can happen.”
Jackson’s fumble on a punt return — he caught the ball on the Redskins 16 and ultimately back-tracked inside the 5-yard line before fumbling — gave the Cowboys a first down on the Washington 15 with 1:26 on the clock. Two plays later, running back Darren McFadden scored from 6 yards out, and Dallas led 16-9.
“It’s DeSean, and he has a history of making big plays in key situations,” said Redskins coach Jay Gruden, who began using Jackson on punt returns in certain situations last week. “I don’t regret that decision one bit.”
Washington’s Rashad Ross returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards, and a facemask penalty moved the ball to the Dallas 43-yard line. Four plays later, Jackson scored to tie the game.
“A number of different situations where there’s an escape hatch to say, ‘Ah, boy, we gave a great effort, but maybe it’s their night,'” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “But our guys refused to give in. They kept battling.”
Cassel finished 16-for-29 for 222 yards. Bryant caught three passes, all in the fourth quarter, for 62 yards.
In the second quarter, Bryant was seen expressing his frustration on the sideline after Cassel threw an incomplete toward another receiver from the Washington 15 as Bryant broke toward the end zone.
Cousins completed 22 of 31 passes for 219 and a touchdown.
Jackson caught six balls for 80 yards.
In a battle of field goals, the teams were tied 3-3 halftime and 6-6 after three quarters.
It was Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins’ turn on the second play of the fourth quarter, this time from 46 yards out.
The Cowboys appeared ready to take the lead in the final five minutes after Cassel found Bryant for a 42-yard completion down the left sideline to the Washington 3-yard line. However, Dallas couldn’t punch it in, and Bailey hit a 20-yard to tie it, 9-9.
The teams combined for just two first downs and 43 yards of offense during an inept first quarter. Cassel completed just two of six passes during the first 15 minutes, while Cousins was sacked three times.
Bailey’s 38-yard field goal gave Dallas a 3-0 lead in the second quarter. Washington responded with a 14-play, 58-yard drive, and Hopkins’ 45-yard field goal on the final play of the half made it 3-3.