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Redskins close out Cowboys

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Redskins close out Cowboys

Arlington, Texas -

In summary: In a span of only six days, the Redskins ascended from afterthought to second place in the NFC East. 

And, all of a sudden, talk of a second half run to the postseason no longer sounds so farfetched. In fact, if the Giants lose to Packers on Sunday, the Redskins will play New York for first place in the NFC East on Monday NIght football 11 days from now.

Crazy? Robert Griffin III doesn't think so.

“It feels as if something is building,” Griffin III said after another spectacular outing. “Being 3-6, the character of your team is tested. If you don’t beat the Eagles, you’re 3-7 and you’re likely to kill your season or the morale of your team. Then we come out on Thanksgiving and really dominate the game, let [the Cowboys] back in and close it out. It was big for the mindset of everybody.”

“Hey,” he added, “We might have thought we could do it. Now we know we can do it and it’s in our hands.”

Click here for my Instant Analysis from Thursday's 38-31 triumph, then come back for 10 more notes, quotes and observations from Cowboys Stadium:

Turning point: With the Redskins ahead 21-3 late in the second quarter, cornerback DeAngelo Hall picked off Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo and returned the ball 27 yards to the Dallas 33 yard line. Four plays later, Robert Griffin III found Santana Moss for a scintillating six-yard touchdown that put the visitors firmly in control, 28-3, with five seconds remaining before halftime.

“This game is all about opportunities,” Moss said. “When you get turnovers, you have to capitalize.”

Offensive play of the game: Trailing 3-0 early in the first half, the Redskins struck on another long-range pass. Griffin tossed a bomb to Aldrick Robinson, who hauled the ball in for a 68-yard touchdown – four days after the duo hooked up on a 49-yarder against the Eagles.

Interestingly, Robinson had been whistled for a false start on the previous play. But instead of scrapping the call, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan just flipped alignment. 

“RG3 gave me a great ball,” Robinson said. “Once I saw where he threw it, I knew I had to put my burners on to the play the ball. I ran as fast as I could and got it.”

Defensive play of the game: Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, the Cowboys were on the move when Romo fired a ball over the middle to Dez Bryant. Bryant made a nice catch, but cornerback Josh Wilson put his helmet on the ball as he went for the tackle, dislodging it and causing a fumble. 

Safety DeJon Gomes recovered the fumble and took it 13 yards to the Cowboys’ 49. Seven plays later, Alfred Morris scored from one yard out to stretch the Redskins’ lead to 14-3. It was Morris’ first touchdown in six games.

Special teams play of the game: Midway through the fourth quarter, Kai Forbath thought the game might come down to a field goal – and it pretty much did. His 48-yarder with 3:03 remaining gave the Redskins a 10-point cushion.

It was Forbath’s first field goal of the day and made him 10 for 10 on the season.

“I tried not to thing about the situation,” he said. “I had a great warmup today and it was our first field goal of the day. But that’s part of the job, to go in there in the fourth quarter when you haven’t kicked one yet and we got it done today.”

Injury report: London Fletcher said he played as long as his ailing left ankle would let him. But after tweaking it for the second time in the fourth quarter, he told the coaching staff that he had become a liability. 

“Everything seems better when you win,” said Fletcher, who sprained the ankle against the Eagles and did not practice all week. “Injuries heal up a lot faster when you win.”

Fletcher also praised Keenan Robinson, who took his spot at inside linebacker. The 37-year-old captain also said he’s fortunate the Redskins now have 11 days until hosting the Giants.

…Linebacker Chris Wilson tweaked his hamstring but returned. He doesn’t believe the injury is serious.

Quote of the day: Hall on sliding at the Cowboys’ two-yard line instead of scoring in the game’s final seconds: “As big of a selfish guy as y’all think I am …” he cracked, making fun of his sometimes contentious relationship with the media. Hall and the reporters who surrounded him laughed. 

Quote of the day, Part II: Griffin on the standout play of his wide receivers: “I told those guys if they ball out like they have been, we can’t be stopped. I was sitting there having a conversation with Trent [Williams] as Pierre [Garçon] was running on his long touchdown. I was like, ‘Man, that was a great catch.’” 

Game ball: Griffin gets it. Morris was very good, running for 113 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. But Griffin stole the show – again. He was 20 of 28 for 311 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. In the past two games, he has tossed eight touchdowns.

“We’ve been able to hit the big plays more so that we were earlier in the year,” Griffin said. “You get more comfortable in the system, more comfortable with the guys around you. Everybody’s clicking at this point and we’re clicking at the right time.”

By the numbers: Griffin is the first Redskins’ quarterback to pass for four touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He’s also the first rookie to have more than one four touchdown performance in the same season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

By the numbers, Part II: With his third quarter interception, Fletcher became only the third active player to have 20 interceptions and 30 sacks. Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher are the others. 

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'Just plain dirty': Trevor Matich blasts Keanu Neal after hit on Jordan Reed

'Just plain dirty': Trevor Matich blasts Keanu Neal after hit on Jordan Reed

On Thursday, the Redskins earned their first preseason victory of the season, defeating the Falcons 19-7 on the road in Atlanta.

But after the game, celebrating an exhibition win was not in the cards. Attention was turned directly to the health of Washington's star tight end.

After absorbing a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Falcons safety Keanu Neal in the second quarter, resulting in his helmet flying off, tight end Jordan Reed was forced to exit the contest. No. 86 started feeling concussion-like symptoms at halftime, and head coach Jay Gruden confirmed after the game that Reed had entered the concussion protocol.

The tight end has a history of concussions. If diagnosed with a concussion again, this would be the seventh documented instance for Reed since he started playing college football.

On Redskins Postgame Live, saying that NBC Sports Washington's Trevor Matich was furious about Neal's hit would be an understatement.

“Just looking at that hit, I thought it was a dirty hit. It was dirty," Matich said. "The safety coming up had plenty of time to see what was going on. Reed was in the grass. Reed didn’t duck his head down, and ended up taking a helmet to his head because of a defender coming in low and didn’t expect Reed to duck."

Matich completely put the blame on Neal and emphasized that there's no place for a hit like that, especially during exhibition football when the games don't count in the standings.

"Reed didn’t duck his head. That defender came in high," he said. "That was a dirty hit. It would have been dirty in the regular season, and especially dirty in the preseason.”

The play resulted in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. But it's fair to question whether Neal deserved a harsher punishment.

Santana Moss was asked whether he thought Neal should have been ejected for the hit, and he had no doubt in his answer.

“It should have been," Moss said. "I saw last week in a preseason game a guy had one shot to the head and he was out of there."

Inconsistent officiating has been an issue in the NFL for several years. 

As the league continues each year to alter the rules in order to make the game safer, Moss wants to see the officiating improve its consistency as well.

"That’s one thing I wanted to see, that our officials do better," Moss said. "We talk about all the rules they are changing and the way they’re going to ref these games. When you see something like that, instantly get the guy out of there. This is something that we’re not trying to tolerate. If you allow guys to do this, you’ll find guys in situations like Jordan Reed.”

The NFL continues to try and make the game safer. Many rules have been put into effect recently to eliminate hits like Neal's. Of course, defenders largely dislike these guidelines, claiming it takes away from their ability to defend receivers. Some fans may dislike the lack of contact as well. 

“It takes away some spectacular hits that fans want to see," Matich said.

But at the end of the day, the NFL is a business. 

"Ultimately, this is family entertainment in the NFL. Head trauma is not good for business," Matich said. "It’s just not. You have an expense of losing some of those fantastic hits, but you also have fewer concussions and problems."

While Neal's hit may have been deemed acceptable and regarded as a great hit a decade ago, there's no place for a hit like that in today's NFL.

"I thought that hit right there was just plain dirty," Matich said.

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Cassanova McKinzy brave in face of stepbrother’s death with standout performance vs. Atlanta

Cassanova McKinzy brave in face of stepbrother’s death with standout performance vs. Atlanta

In the Redskins' 19-7 preseason victory over the Falcons, outside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy arguably solidified his spot on the 53-man roster. 

The former Auburn linebacker recorded three tackles and two sacks, one of which resulted in a forced fumble. The other, McKinzy blew by the left tackle using a Demarcus Ware-like technique to have a free run at the quarterback.

McKinzy, who is positioning himself to be on an active roster to start a season for the first time in his career, was asked by NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay if any of the coaches had said anything to him regarding his stellar performance and roster status.

"I had a couple of coaches saying 'good job,' but I haven't talked to anyone," McKinzy told Finlay. "I stayed out there a little longer than I was supposed to."

After the clock hit zero and the initial on-field postgame exchanges concluded, McKinzy stayed a little bit longer on the turf. He had to let his emotion out.

Just three days prior, the linebacker's stepbrother had passed away. 

"I haven't cried all week. I haven't let anything out. I haven't told anybody. That was just my time to let it all out," McKinzy said. "I feel a little better, and when I get around my family, I'll feel even better. I'll see them tonight."

Despite his devastating loss, McKinzy was able to stay focused on football. Very few people, if anyone, in Redskins Park knew what the linebacker was going through.

He didn't want anyone to know, either.

"No one really knew. I didn't tell anyone because, at the end of the day, it's still my job," he said. "I don't want any pity from nobody. I just want to go out there and do my job and show that I can keep focus, no matter what's going on in my life."

"I have to do my job," he continued. "In that building, the only thing that matters is football. Everything else, you have to keep outside the building."

The linebacker was able to do just that on Thursday, as his standout preseason continued. In the three seasons since he went undrafted, McKinzy has just one NFL tackle to his name. He's changed his body and gotten quicker, and if this preseason is any indication, he could be a viable pass rusher for the Burgundy and Gold in 2019. 

While No. 58 would not say he dedicated his performance to his late stepbrother, it did give him, if anything, a little extra motivation.

"I would say half and half," on whether he dedicated his performance to his late step-brother. "I came out today saying I was going to work on some things, and I worked on them. I came out and said I was going to start reading, being better with my keys and more consistent running to the ball. Just paying attention to what the tackles were giving me, the whole nine."

While he's likely played himself onto the 53-man roster, McKinzy doesn't believe he's a sure thing yet.

"I wouldn't say lock, I still have a lot of work to do," he said. "It felt real good just to be back out there and do what I know how to do."

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