It’s been a long time since anyone would describe the Washington Redskins as fortunate. Or the Dallas Cowboys, for that matter.
Well, no such proclamations are coming in 2018 for the Redskins. Not after three setbacks on Sunday, including a ruinous injury.
But the Cowboys? Ya never know.
The Redskins lost at home to the Houston Texans 23-21, lost control of the NFC East and, most devastatingly, lost their starting quarterback Alex Smith for the season with a ghastly leg break.
This, after already having lost three offensive starters for the season this month to various injuries: wide receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder), left guard Shawn Lauvao (ACL) and right guard Brandon Scherff (torn pectoral).
The day had begun with promise for Washington.
With a 6-3 record, the Redskins not only had every intention of upsetting three-point-favourite Houston to improve to 7-3, but Washington’s two nearest division rivals both were playing on the road – 4-5 Dallas at desperate Atlanta, and 4-5 Philadelphia at 8-1 New Orleans. The Redskins seemed to have a good chance of taking a commanding lead in the division.
Instead, the day hardly could have gone worse from a Washington perspective.
While the Eagles got blown out in New Orleans, the Cowboys eked out a 22-19 win over the Falcons to improve to 5-5. When strong-legged Redskins placekicker Dustin Hopkins came up well short on an attempted game-winning field goal from 63 yards out with three seconds left, the Redskins fell to 6-4.
It was late in the third quarter when Smith – the veteran passer whom the Redskins acquired from Kansas City in an off-season trade – broke both the fibula and tibia of his right leg, on a sack by blitzing Texans safety Kareem Jackson. Jackson rolled over Smith’s leg just above the ankle, and, well, let’s just say that Smith’s right foot looked rather dangly after that. Ewww.
It wasn’t quite as gruesome an injury to watch on TV replays as when Redskins QB Joe Theismann in 1985 had his lower leg snapped in two on a sack by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor – but close.
Smith was carted to the locker room. He underwent emergency surgery, his season done.
The Redskins have no time to grieve, and even less time than usual to prepare Smith’s understudy, Colt McCoy. That’s because the Redskins play at Dallas on Thursday in the second game of the annual U.S. Thanksgiving Day triple-header. Lose, and the Redskins would find themselves in a tie for the NFC East lead with the Cowboys, at 6-5.
Just like that.
Asked afterward where his mind goes after such an afternoon, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, “To Dallas. We’re excited about it.”
McCoy, 32, entered the NFL in 2010 as a third-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns. After his obligatory forgetful stint there, McCoy backed up Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco in 2013, before signing with the Redskins in 2014. He started four games that year, but has had only four relief appearances since. Thursday will be McCoy’s first start since Dec. 14, 2014 – a 24-13 Washington loss at the New York Giants.
Dallas, meantime, became the latest team to defeat the Falcons in Atlanta.
Dallas QB Dak Prescott didn’t throw any touchdown passes, and wasn’t intercepted, but he did complete clutch passes down the stretch, including four on the winning drive that culminated with a last-play 42-yard field goal from Brett Maher.
The Cowboys got back two injured offensive linemen – guard Zack Martin (knee) and tackle Tyron Smith (back spasms) – and darned if Ezekiel Elliott didn’t run wild again. He carried 23 times for 122 yards and a TD, and had a career-high seven catches for 79 more yards.
The Dallas defence remains solid, if not great. So, as long as the Cowboys O-line can open holes for Elliott, Dallas can beat anybody. The Cowboys are 14-3 since 2016 when Elliott rushes for 100-plus yards.
It’s been more than a quarter century since the Redskins last won a Super Bowl, and nearly that long for the Cowboys.
Whichever of these two teams wins the NFC East – and it looks more and more as though it will be one of these two teams – no one’s going to expect a long playoff run, let alone a sniff at the Super Bowl.
But ’tis the season for hope and goodwill. So, with Christmas references beginning in earnest this week, go ahead and sing it with blind happy faith, Redskins and Cowboys fans – like Hermey and Rudolph in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:
“Fame and fortune, fame and fortune – they will be ours … some … day!”
COACH TO HOSPITAL: Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees was rushed to an Indianapolis hospital after “experiencing a medical issue during” the first quarter of the Titans-Colts game in the coaches’ press-box booth at Lucas Oil Stadium. Pees was taken from the stadium in a wheelchair.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters afterward that the plan was for Pees to remain in hospital overnight for tests, adding that “Dean is doing okay… Everything I heard as of now has been very positive, that he should make a full recovery and be fine with whatever he had going on.”
The Titans released no further information about the nature of Pees’ health emergency.
EXTRA POINTS: Lamar Jackson became the fifth quarterback in this year’s rookie class, and although he didn’t do much passing-wise (13-of-19 for 150 yards, no TDs and one pick) he was the game’s leading rusher with 117 yards on 27 carries, as the Baltimore Ravens beat the visiting Cincinnati Bengals 24-21 to improve to 5-5 … Andrew Luck wasn’t sacked for the fifth straight game, and he threw at least three TDs for the seventh straight game (with three) as Indianapolis throttled Tennessee, 38-10 … The Tampa Bay QB carousel continues to spin. Embattled head coach Dirk Koetter benched Ryan Fitzpatrick for the second time since Week 4 and reinserted benched nominal starter Jameis Winston, whose comeback came up short in a 38-35 loss at the Giants.