LANDOVER — Deshazor Everett fell to his knees and stared at the FedEx Field grass in disbelief. Around him, the Dallas Cowboys celebrated after wide receiver Amari Cooper had blown by the Redskins safety and hauled in the easy touchdown.
For months, the Redskins defense had talked of the talent on the unit, confident the team had the right collection of players to win — or even dominate.
But for the second straight week, Washington’s supposed strength looked like a liability.
The Redskins had no answer for Dallas‘ high-powered offense Sunday as Washington fell 31-21 in the team’s home opener. At one point, the Cowboys (2-0) scored 21 unanswered — creating a cushion that Washington (0-2) was unable to fully erase.
A week after he finished with a perfect passer rating, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns against the Redskins — with only four of his 30 attempts not resulting in a completion.
The Redskins, again, allowed more than 30 points and more than 400 yards of offense.
Following Week 1’s loss to the Eagles, the Redskins stressed they had to get better at getting off the field. For a quarter-and-a-half, the defense appeared to have gotten the message.
The Redskins even forced Prescott into his first interception of the year when defensive tackle Daron Payne applied pressure up the middle, causing the quarterback to scramble and misdirect a throw to receiver Randall Cobb. Prescott’s pass bounced off Cobb’s hands and right to safety Montae Nicholson, who returned it to Dallas‘ 38-yard line.
The Redskins took advantage of the field position, keeping Dallas off balance, using wideout Steve Sims on a series of jet sweeps and relying on running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson capped off the drive by bulldozing his way to the end zone for a 1-yard score, giving the Redskins a 7-0 lead.
Washington’s momentum, however, was short-lived.
In the second quarter, Dallas‘ offense came away with touchdowns on drives of 97 and 83 yards. Both drives saw the Redskins committing a variety of mistakes, from small errors to mind-boggling blunders.
On Dallas‘ first touchdown, cornerback Josh Norman was burned by wideout Devin Smith on a deep post route for a 51-yard strike. It appeared as if Norman was expecting safety help when there was none. That resulted in the Redskins giving up their third 50-yard-plus touchdown of the season. The Eagles’ DeSean Jackson had two last week.
On the Cowboys‘ next drive, the Redskins didn’t do themselves any favors. They bit on a short-yardage fake to Ezekiel Elliott, allowing Prescott to run 42 yards down the field on a quarterback keeper.
Later, when the Redskins made a goal line stand, stopping the Cowboys on third down, the series was kept alive when cornerback Jimmy Moreland was called for defensive holding in the end zone. One play later, Prescott found tight end Jason Witten for the touchdown.
In the second half, Washington’s offense kept things interesting. After Dallas scored to open the third quarter, the Redskins responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 9-yard pass to Paul Richardson.
Quarterback Case Keenum was effective, displaying a solid command of the system in finishing with 221 yards on 26 of 37 passing with two touchdowns.
But the Redskins fell short of converting a much-needed fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter, and when Dallas‘ offense took the field, the Cowboys marched down the field to put the game out of reach. Elliott scored on a two-yard touchdown run.
The Redskins’ defense was missing two starters in cornerback Quinton Dunbar (knee) and defensive end Jonathan Allen (knee), and nickel cornerback Fabian Moreau (ankle) has yet to play this season.
But it’s too early in the season to use injuries as an excuse, and coach Jay Gruden said last week the Redskins had too much talent on defense to play as they have been. That talent, it appears, isn’t enough to win games.
Washington will now have eight days to look for solutions. The team returns on “Monday Night Football” against the Chicago Bears.
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