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With a depleted roster, Redskins needed excellence from Kirk Cousins, but didn't get it

With a depleted roster, Redskins needed excellence from Kirk Cousins, but didn't get it

The obstacles mounted for the Redskins on Sunday. Injuries and fat rain drops and wind and more injuries, stacking up like Beltway traffic. 

There were plenty of reasons for the Redskins to lose to the Cowboys, every one of the 70,000 people at FedEx Field knew as much.

For Washington to win, in a game with a depleted roster and a devastated offensive line, Jay Gruden's team would need to play their best. 

And they didn't. 

Early in the game, it looked like the Redskins had a chance for their first NFC East win of the year.

Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott fumbled his first carry of the game. The first play from scrimmage, the Redskins defense got a turnover and gifted the offense with prime field position. Only the offense couldn't convert, not even a single first down, and the team settled for a field goal. 

It was a sign of things to come.

There was a brief period of prosperity for the Redskins and an early 13-7 lead even. But late in the second quarter, disaster struck. The Cowboys blocked a Redskins field goal attempt, a low shot from rookie kicker Nick Rose. Dallas returned the ball more than 80 yards, nearly scoring, and Elliott punched it in a few plays later. 

It was a 10-point swing. Instead of a 16-7 lead, the Redskins now trailed, 14-13. 

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"The blocked field goal which was very costly, obviously. We could have gone up by nine," Gruden said after the game. "Instead, they got the ball at our one-yard line. That was a big one."

In the second half, turnovers and ineffective offense combined with even more injuries to sink the Redskins. Even Chris Thompson, Washington's best player through seven games, had a fumble. 

In a game that started with a beat up offensive line lacking three starters, things got worse when guard Shawn Lauvao left the action. The line was a mess, the Redskins couldn't run the ball, and Kirk Cousins didn't play all that great either.  

Cousins' play has become a flash point for Redskins fans. Like the city's biggest business of politics, Cousins has become a divisive topic in Washington. 

His stats show a player that completed 26 of 39 passes for 263 yards to go with one touchdown and one interception. Like he usually does, Cousins completed more than 65 percent of his passes. 

Beyond the stats though, Cousins had two near interceptions in the second half, one thrown right after the other. The same thing happened against San Francisco. 

And Cousins also threw a late interception that sealed the loss for the Redskins. The same thing happened last week in Philadelphia. In three of the Redskins four losses, Cousins has thrown a late interception that effectively ended the game. 

To be fair, the INT came on a tipped ball. It was hardly Cousins fault, or at least entirely his fault. 

RELATED: THE UGLY SIDE TO THE REDSKINS 3-4 RECORD

And it's also worth pointing out Cousins played the game in terrible conditions.

The rain fell fast and hard by the end of the game, and it was nasty out there on the field when the Redskins passer had the chance to pull off the game-winning drive. Cousins also had a patchwork offensive line, no Jordan Reed or Niles Paul for much of the game, and had to deal with wide reciever drops all game.

In no way did Cousins lose the game for the Redskins, but he didn't win it either. 

A few different times now this season, Cousins has had the opportunity to go win the game for the Redskins. It's not all on him, obviously, but a lot of it is. Quarterbacks get too much credit for wins, and yes, they also get too much blame for losses. 

To beat Dallas on Sunday, the Redskins needed the best out of Cousins. They didn't get it. And they didn't win. 

Some games, some teams can win without a great game from their quarterback.

For the Redskins, Sunday's contest against Dallas was not one of those games. 

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 16, 57 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 49
—NFL Draft (4/26) 100
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 236

Nickel coverage—Five Redskins questions

Taking a look at some of the key questions surrounding the Redskins, sometimes coming up with more questions in the process. Yes, it's going to be that kind of offseason. 

What will the Redskins do at left guard? It would be better for the Redskins to find their left guard in the draft, but assuming that the successor is picked after the second round, they will want someone to start until the rookie is ready. That could be Arie Kouandjio or maybe a veteran free agent.

Can the Redskins make do with what they have at running back? The short answer is no. The running back situation needs attention. It’s hard to picture Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley forming a formidable tandem, or even a very good one. I’m wary of spending a high draft pick on an RB, but the success of the likes of Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette have to be factored into the thinking.

Are the Redskins OK with Zach Brown and Mason Foster at inside linebacker? For the time being they are, assuming that they are able to sign both of the unrestricted free agents, however the Redskins need to continue to build that position. That means continuing to develop Josh Harvey-Clemons to use in nickel situations and spending draft resources there. Even if Brown and Foster are back, the Redskins might be smart to grab Roquan Smith out of Georgia if he’s there in the first round.

If they are without Kirk Cousins, will the Redskins rebuild or retool? This is a key question for the organization. If Cousins leaves, do they just try to plug in the best available/affordable quarterback they can find and roll on with the same basic personnel with which they have hovered around .500 the last three years? Or will the make other changes, perhaps moving on from Josh Norman and Jordan Reed to save cap money for future seasons and give their younger players a chance to establish themselves? The latter might be the better way to go but this organization rarely considers short-term pain for long-term gain.

If Junior Galette leaves, who replaces him? While Galette did not light it up in the sack department, he put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He is likely to leave since he would remain behind Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan on the depth chart if he re-signed in Washington. Can they rely on 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson to take a giant leap in his sophomore season? Will they try to lock up free agent Trent Murphy and hope that he can bounce back from an ACL injury he suffered last August and regain his nine-sack form of 2016? I don’t see how they can rely on Anderson to suddenly provide pressure after recording zero sacks this past year. Whether it’s Murphy or another free agent, someone with a better track record has to be in the picture. If Anderson improves enough to move ahead of that player on the depth chart, so much the better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

There is nothing quite like January playoff football and Sunday night's Vikings vs. Saints game further proved this point.

In case you have been off the grid the past 12 hours, the Minnesota Vikings literally got a last second win against the New Orleans Saints.

With 10 seconds left in the fourth and facing a 3rd and 10, quarterback Case Keenum heaved the football near the sideline to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who dodged two defenders while managing to stay inbounds for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock expired. 

It was one of the most remarkable playoff walk-off wins, if not the most remarkable one, in football.

So, where does it stand among the others?

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Broncos vs. Steelers 2011 AFC Wild Card game: Remember Tim Tebow's 80-yard overtime touchdown to Demaryius Thomas during the 2011 Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Wild Card game? It was the first and last snap of overtime and it was wild.

Mile High Miracle: On third and three with 43 seconds left in the game, Ravens' Joe Flacco launched one towards wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who got in front of the Broncos receiver and ran the ball in for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown. The Ravens would eventually go on to win the game in double overtime. Some could argue it was the defining moment in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Super Bowl XLIII: Under the brightest lights of all, Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds in the fourth in the back of the end zone for a toe-dragging, Super Bowl-winning catch. 

RELATED: WHAT REDSKINS CAN LEARN FROM THIS WEEKEND'S PLAYOFF GAMES

Saints vs. 49ers 2012 NFC Divisional game: Sunday's loss wasn't the first time the Saints have experienced a fourth quarter letdown. Back in 2012, Alex Smith threw one to the endzone on 3rd-and-three with 14 seconds left that sealed a win.

While these are only a few, we can't wait to add more to the list in years to come.