With the score tied and about 1 1/2 minutes left, DeSean Jackson fielded a punt at his own 16 and headed up the field.
Jackson, who hadn’t been used as a punt returner by the Washington Football Team until last week, got past the 20, before reversing course and heading backward all the way to the 1, with various Dallas Cowboys in pursuit. As he again tried to move forward, Jackson was surrounded and the ball popped out, recovered by punter Chris Jones at the 15 with 86 seconds remaining.
Two plays later, Dallas scored its only touchdown of a game that generally was as ugly as can be, and the Cowboys eventually edged the Washington Football Team 19-16 on Monday night to make quite a jumble of the mediocre NFC East.
“I take that one on my chin,” Jackson said. “I’m a veteran in this league, and I know I need to protect the ball, and it just got away from me.”
“The best thing I could say was, ‘I laid an egg; I messed up,’” Jackson said.
Washington (5-7) had won its past five home games, but this loss continued a pattern: The Washington Football Team has not won in consecutive weeks all season.
“We’ve shown flashes. Good quarters, good games, here and there,” Gruden said. “But the great teams, the ones that advance in the playoffs and win Super Bowls are consistent. And we have not been.”
The last-place Cowboys (4-8) won for the first time this season without Tony Romo at quarterback. They are only one game behind the Washington Football Team, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
“Our guys don’t blink,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve given ourselves an opportunity to stay in it.”
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.
After combining to score 18 points in the first 58 1/2 minutes, the teams combined for 17 the frenzied rest of the way. Dallas scored its TD 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,” Washington Football Team quarterback Kirk Cousins called it.
“We just had some unforced errors,” Gruden said.
None bigger than Jackson’s.
“Well, it didn’t end up the way we wanted it to,” Gruden said about that play, delivering quite an understatement.
Dallas jumped in front on McFadden’s 6-yard touchdown run. A 41-yard kickoff return plus a 15-yard facemask penalty on J.J. Wilcox set the Washington Football Team 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 of the evening.
“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. 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,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We won one on will tonight.”
Both QBs were mediocre, with Cousins going 22 for 31 for 219 yards, the one TD and zero interceptions, marking the first time Washington has lost this season when he avoided throwing a pick. Cassel finished 16 for 29 for 222 yards, with several of his throws landing nowhere near teammates.
Notes: Washington Football Team K Dustin Hopkins made three kicks but missed one from 43 yards with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining. … The teams combined for 16 penalties for 144 yards. There were 10 punts, 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 sidelines were shut off.
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