LANDOVER, Md. -- Dez Bryant's tantrum on the Dallas Cowboys' sideline was not a good look. Neither was Darren McFadden's two-fumble performance. Matt Cassel's passes often sailed nowhere near his receivers.
All in all, it was an ugly game, one devoid of any style points or many scoreboard points until the final 1:30. Perhaps fittingly, a fumbled punt return by Washington's DeSean Jackson deep in his own territory led to Dallas' only touchdown.
Yet none of that mattered to Dallas, really, because by beating Washington 19-16 on Dan Bailey's 54-yard field goal with nine seconds left Monday night, the Cowboys somehow kept themselves in the thick of the playoff chase in the woeful NFC East.
"We have everything to gain and everything to lose," Bryant said. "We are still in this thing."
The last-place Cowboys (4-8) won without quarterback Tony Romo for the first time this season and are only one game behind the Redskins, Giants and Eagles, who are all 5-7.
"Our guys don't blink," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "We've given ourselves an opportunity to stay in it."
After combining to score 18 points in the first 58 minutes, the teams combined for 17 points the frenzied rest of the way. Dallas scored the game's first touchdown with 74 seconds remaining to lead 16-9 after recovering Jackson's miscue. Washington tied it on Jackson's 28-yard TD catch, and then Bailey hit the go-ahead kick.
"A roller coaster," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins called it.
Washington had won its past five home games, but this loss continued a pattern: The Redskins have not won in consecutive weeks all season.
"We just had some unforced errors," coach Jay Gruden said.
None was bigger than Jackson's. With the score knotted at 9-9, Jackson -- who hadn't been used as a punt returner all season until last week -- caught the kick at his 16, began running up the field and got past the 20 before reversing course and heading back to the 1. As he tried to move forward, Jackson was surrounded, and the ball popped out and was recovered by punter Chris Jones at the 15 with 86 seconds remaining.
"Well, it didn't end up the way we wanted it to," Gruden said of that play.
Jackson did not deflect blame.
"I take that one on my chin," he said. "I'm a veteran in this league, and I know I need to protect the ball."
Dallas needed only two plays to cash in and jump in front on McFadden's 6-yard touchdown run. A 41-yard kickoff return plus a 15-yard face mask penalty on J.J. Wilcox set the Redskins up at Dallas' 43, and four plays later, Jackson hauled in a perfect pass from Cousins to pull even with 44 seconds to go. That left enough time for Cassel to lead Dallas 20 yards in five plays for Bailey's fourth field goal.
"One of the crazier games I've ever been a part of," Cassel said.
He was previously 0-4 as a starter in place of the injured Romo this season.
"I feel stunned we have not been able to win more games without Tony," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I thought we could coach it up enough to put it together enough to not have lost those games without Romo early, and we'd be in better shape now. We won one on will tonight."
Both QBs were mediocre, with Cousins going 22-for-31 for 219 yards, one TD and zero interceptions. It was the first time this season that Washington lost when he avoided throwing a pick. Cassel finished 16-for-29 for 222 yards, with several of his throws landing nowhere near teammates.
Bryant was yelling, cursing and generally carrying on along the Cowboys' sideline in the first half, apparently upset about not being thrown the ball. By halftime, he had zero catches and had been targeted twice. He finished with three receptions for 62 yards, including a diving, 42-yard grab that led to -- what else? -- a field goal.
"I have to do a better job of giving him more opportunities," Cassel said.
Redskins K Dustin Hopkins made three kicks but missed one from 43 yards with about seven-and-a-half minutes remaining. ... The teams combined for 16 penalties for 144 yards. There were 10 punts and seven in the first quarter alone. ... Dallas lost three fumbles, but those led to only three points for Washington. ... Because of a power problem, the tablets used by teams on the sideline were shut off.
- Butch Hannah
- Steve Stelljes
- Laird Hayes
- Byron Boston
- Walt Anderson
- Steve Patrick
- Eugene Hall