Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, left, and Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden, center, greet each other after an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 31-26. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
WASHINGTON (AP) Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden defended some of the decisions that left him open to second guessing in his team's loss to the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys.
One by one during a conference call with reporters on Friday, Gruden went over some of the key moments of a 31-26 road defeat, ending a two-game winning streak for the Redskins (6-4-1).
There was the stuffed wildcat run on first-and-goal on a possession that ended with only a field goal. Then another red-zone possession at the end of the first half that also led to only three points after more than 15 seconds ticked away – on purpose, Gruden said.
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There was the missed 55-yard field goal – Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins' career best was from 54 – that gave Dallas a short field, which it took advantage of for a six-play TD drive. And the botched onside kick early in the fourth quarter Thursday, which again left the Cowboys with a short field, resulting in an eight-play TD drive.
“My mindset's going to not change. We're going to be aggressive in all phases of the game. If we see a look that we like, we've got to call it,” Gruden said. “We're not going to end the game and say, 'Dang, I wish I would have tried an onside kick' or 'I wish I had tried the field goal.'”
Given the way some of his pivotal choices worked out – or didn't, actually – Gruden might have been expected to say he wishes he had not tried that onside kick (it was recovered by Dallas) or had not let Hopkins attempt that field goal (it sailed wide right).
Here is what Gruden said Friday about the four key moments:
– The failed wildcat run by Robert Kelley with Kirk Cousins split out wide left as a receiver was doomed by poor execution, according to the coach: “It's the same run whether we handed it to him or just snapped it to him. So we just thought we'd get the quarterback out of there and just loosen up the box a little bit.”
– The end-of-half clock management: Gruden said he let time run down before calling his last timeout on third down at the 2, presumably to make sure the Cowboys wouldn't have time for an end-of-half drive. He did acknowledge regretting having wasted a timeout on his team's opening possession, when he stopped the clock instead of taking a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty because he only had 10 players on the field.
– The 55-yard field-goal attempt: “I know Hopkins' leg. I know he can make that kick,” Gruden said. “Where do you draw the line: 52, 53, 54, 55? I mean, you're talking about a difference of 9 feet. And I know he's got plenty of leg to get it. He had plenty of distance, he just pushed it to the right.”
– The onside kick after Cousins' 67-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson cut Washington's deficit to 24-19 with about 9½ minutes remaining: “I thought it was a good opportunity to try to steal a possession, quite frankly. We had the look that we wanted; just didn't execute it. It was kicked a little bit too hard.”
Despite the setback against Dallas (10-1), third-place Washington remains in the hunt to earn an NFC wild-card berth a year after winning the division. The Redskins haven't been a playoff participant in back-to-back years since going three times in a row after the 1990, 1991 and 1992 seasons.
“We're not in the spot we want to be, obviously, in relation to our division. But when you're looking at the big picture, the object is to get in the playoffs, to get into the dance, and right now we're in position,” Gruden said. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”
Note: Gruden said TE Jordan Reed (shoulder) would have an MRI exam on Friday to determine the severity of his shoulder injury. “There is something there, though, that we have to deal with,” Gruden said.
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