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Cowboys don't want season to slip out of reach

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Cowboys don't want season to slip out of reach

IRVING, Texas (AP) The Dallas Cowboys now must try to keep their season from slipping out of reach.

They were so close - by the length of Dez Bryant's fingertips - to being within a half-game of the NFC East lead and having a vital tiebreaker with a season sweep of the division-leading New York Giants. But the receiver's touchdown catch in the closing seconds was overturned on a replay review.

Dallas (3-4) hits the halfway mark of its schedule Sunday night at Atlanta (7-0), the NFL's only undefeated team. The Cowboys then go to Philadelphia for the first of two meetings in four weeks against their division foe.

``There is a tremendous amount of urgency,'' coach Jason Garrett said Monday. ``Every game is critical. This is a big game.''

The Cowboys overcame an early 23-0 deficit and led going into the fourth quarter Sunday in what would have been the biggest comeback victory in team history.

But New York won 29-24 after regaining the lead with two field goals, the go-ahead points coming after Felix Jones fumbled. The Giants held on after replay showed Bryant's fingers hit out of bounds before he landed on a leaping 37-yard grab with 10 seconds left.

Tight end Jason Witten's franchise-record 18 catches and Tony Romo's career-high 437 yards passing on a record 62 attempts (with 36 completions) weren't enough to help the Cowboys overcome six turnovers, including four interceptions.

New York (6-2) now has a firm grasp on the NFC East lead because no other team in the division has a winning record. Philadelphia (3-4) and Washington (3-5) both lost Sunday.

``It's to that point in the season where you don't have time,'' Witten said. ``Nobody cares about battling. They don't, they want to see you win. ... The clock's ticking. You have to be able to find a way to get on top here a little bit.''

Romo has already thrown an NFL-high 13 interceptions in 283 attempts, after having only 10 picks in 522 throws last season. The Cowboys have 19 total giveaways and a minus-11 turnover margin.

Asked how much turnovers have contributed to the Cowboys' losses, Garrett responded, ``I think it's probably been the biggest single factor.''

Dallas keeps turning it over despite a continued emphasis to correct that problem, a fact that led to a rare public admission by Garrett of being frustrated.

``In this particular case, absolutely,'' Garrett said. ``Frustration is not a helpful emotion, but it's something that we just have to continue to focus on and get better at. ... At times, we've done a very good job of it, and I think the results speak for themselves. Other times we haven't, and similarly the results speak for themselves.''

While Bryant almost had a decisive play, and finished with five catches for 110 yards, he contributed to two early turnovers that helped the Giants lead 23-0 only 2 minutes into the second quarter.

Romo was trying to throw deep when Bryant rounded his route instead of flattening out across the middle. Stevie Brown cut in front of him for an interception.

Bryant later fielded a punt over his head. Even though he recovered after the ball went through his hands, Bryant was stripped and fumbled inside the Cowboys 20.

``Certainly, the play he had (Sunday) was not a good play for our football team,'' Garrett said. ``We've got to take care of the football on offense, we've got to get the ball on defense, and we certainly have to do that on special teams as well.''

Cowboys leading rusher DeMarco Murray could be back against Atlanta after missing the last two games with a sprained right foot. When Murray walked in the locker room briefly Monday while it was open to the media, he wouldn't directly answer if he thought he would play Sunday night.

``We'll just have to wait and see. It seems like he's moving around a little bit better,'' Garrett said. ``That's an injury you have to be patient with. We don't want to rush him back, then take any backward steps.''

It could be a big boost if Murray can play, considering Jones had 13 carries for 19 yards against the Giants. Phillip Tanner gained nothing on two carries on consecutive plays after Dallas had first-and-goal from the New York 1 early in the third quarter.

When the Cowboys were driving in the final minutes with all three timeouts left, they didn't even try to run after second-and-1 from the 19. Instead, Romo threw consecutive incompletions before an interception.

``They were pretty committed to stopping the run,'' Garrett said when asked about the play-calling. ``Certainly whenever the play doesn't work, it's easy for us as coaches to look back afterward and say we should have done something different.''

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chris Miller caught up with Michigan star Moe Wagner after his workout with the Wizards.

Chris and Chase Hughes also gave their impressions of the first prospects to come in for pre-draft workouts, including which guys are most likely to be Wizards. One of those prospects is a point guard and a likely first round pick. Chase and Chris explain why that's not a crazy idea, even considering the presence of John Wall on their roster.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

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.