LANDOVER, Md. -- Well, the Dallas Cowboys are alive.
Barely, but alive.
A game devoid of touchdowns for the first 58 minutes had two in a 30-second span, and then a 46-yard kickoff return by Lucky Whitehead set up the Cowboys final winning drive.
How do you describe that one?
Well, it was a win. And that’s all that matters for the Cowboys.
The Redskins helped the Cowboys, especially after DeSean Jackson's horrendous decision to retreat on a punt from the Washington 22 to the 2; his subsequent fumble at 9-yard line led to the Cowboys' only touchdown.
Because the Cowboys are the Cowboys, they gave up a touchdown in just 30 seconds when Jackson beat Morris Claiborne for a 28-yard score with 44 seconds to play.
But then Whitehead delivered, Bryant showed up and Bailey came through.
It was hardly artistic. The Cowboys could not do much offensively, nearly going their fourth game without an offensive touchdown this season and the third time in Matt Cassel’s five starts. The defense was at its best for most of the game but cratered late. The special teams giveth (Whitehead's return) and taketh away (a long kick return and facemask penalty set up the Redskins' only touchdown drive).
But it was a win.
And, oh yeah, with a month to go, the 4-8 Cowboys are just one game out of first place in the NFC East.
Cassel gets credit for the win. It was the first by a Dallas backup since Stephen McGee in Week 17 of the 2010 season, snapping a nine-game losing streak by Tony Romo’s backups. But Cassel was off all night. The running game wasn’t much better, with Darren McFadden fumbling twice. Devin Street fumbled once.
By no means was it pretty but the Cowboys didn’t need a pretty win. They just needed a win -- any win.
The season lives for at least another week.
Finally the X factor: Feeling as good as he has felt all season with foot, knee and ankle injuries, Bryant was held without a catch over the first three quarters. He finally was able to get on the reception column in typical Bryant fashion: a 42-yard diving catch to the Washington 3. Of course, the Cowboys could not get in the end zone. But then Bryant had the two catches that set up Bailey’s 54-yard winner.
What were they thinking? In what was a good defensive effort in the first half (107 yards), the third-down defense struggled on Washington’s final drive of the first half. The Cowboys gave up three conversions, including one on third-and-14. They were able to hold the Redskins to a 45-yard field goal attempt to close the half after a stop on third-and-13, but they missed opportunities to get off the field.
One reason to get excited: The Cowboys are in it, even after losing eight of nine games. With a month to play the Cowboys are just a game out of first place. The Cowboys have at least extended their season another week with the win.
One reason to panic: Perhaps McFadden has hit the wall. He fumbled twice (his first of the season) and was knocked from the game on the opening series of the third quarter after picking up 21 yards on three carries. He had a concussion test but was cleared and returned to the game. In the first half, he carried six times for 14 yards. This comes on the heels of a 10-carry, 11-yard outing on Thanksgiving against Carolina.
A different DeMarcus: DeMarcus Ware became the Cowboys’ all-time leader in sacks from 2005-13. Dallas drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round in 2014 hoping he could bring some pass rush. Lawrence had the first two-sack game of his career and also had a key tackle for loss in the third quarter on Monday night. Lawrence now leads the Cowboys with five sacks on the season.