Rapid Reaction: Redskins 28, Cowboys  18

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
10:31
PM ET


LANDOVER, Md. -- Jason Hatcher's left hand ended the Dallas Cowboys' season Sunday night.

The Cowboys' defensive end did the right thing by getting pressure on Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III late in the game with Dallas down by three. But as the rookie threw an incomplete pass on third down, Hatcher's hand slapped Griffin in the head. It drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer and kept the Redskins' drive alive, eventually sealing the NFC East title.

Washington held on to beat Dallas 28-18 at FedEx Field to clinch the division and the No. 4 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Dallas' season ended here to their long-time rivals because the offense couldn't produce enough points and the defense didn't stop the running game.

What it means: The season is over. The Cowboys are now 2-12 in win-or-go-home games since 2000, the worst mark in the NFL. Quarterback Tony Romo didn't come through in the clutch, throwing three interceptions to fall to 1-6 in these situations. The Cowboys finish 8-8 and are out of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

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Who or what was most responsible for the Cowboys' downfall this season?

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Ware's night: DeMarcus Ware, who didn't register a sack or a tackle, played with a hyperextended right elbow and a busted right shoulder that keeps popping out. Ware started the game but not the second half. He was ineffective the entire night, playing with one arm, and was regulated to just passing downs. Ware struggled to contain Griffin on play-action fakes. At least twice, Ware was sucked in on fakes from Griffin to Alfred Morris, and Griffin took off for big gains. Ware had no solo tackles and was credited with an assisted tackle.

Romo's long night: The Cowboys' starting quarterback fussed at best friend/tight end Jason Witten, yelled at left tackle Tyron Smith and got on wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Romo knew the importance of this game, not only for his team but for his own standing in the league. He needed this victory, but when his evening was over he finished with three interceptions, the final one with three minutes left that sealed the victory for the Redskins. Romo finished 20-of-37 for 218 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Harris keeps Cowboys in it: At one point the Cowboys' starting wide receivers -- Dez Bryant and Miles Austin -- were not on the field due to injuries. Bryant suffered from a strained lower back and Austin had a sprained ankle. It left Dwayne Harris to take over. He had a 25-yard reception, a 39-yard punt return and a two-point conversion catch. His 39-yard punt return set up a 10-yard touchdown reception by Kevin Ogletree. Harris' conversion brought the Cowboys to within 21-16. He ended up hurt after a 20-yard kick return with about a minute to play and didn't return.

Can't stop the run: The Cowboys allowed a season-high 274 yards to the Washington Redskins. Morris rushed 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. It's easy to say the Cowboys failed to contain the running game. Without Jay Ratliff, Josh Brent, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, their prime inside players, the Redskins just took advantage of things. The last time the Cowboys allowed a running back to get more than 200 rushing yards was 2000, when Tampa Bay's Warrick Dunn picked up 210.

What's next? With the season over, the coaching staff and scouting department will review what happened in 2012 and then begin preparations for the NFL draft and free agency. The Cowboys will head to Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 21 to scout the Senior Bowl.

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