The Dallas Cowboys were staring at a shot at overtime Sunday with a chance to take first place in the NFC East.
Trailing the rival Washington Redskins, 20-17 with three seconds remaining, the Cowboys set rookie kicker Brett Maher up with a chance to be a hero, facing a 47-yard field goal attempt to tie the game.
Late penalty costly for Cowboys
Then there was movement. Redskins rookie lineman Da’Ron Payne jumped across the line before the snap, appearing to give Maher a five-yard cushion for the kick.
But the penalty was on Dallas. Officials flagged long snapper L.P. Ladouceur for a snap infraction, making the attempt a 52-yarder for Maher.
Miss lands Washington in first place
Maher’s kick had the distance but clanged off the left upright to secure the win for Washington.
With the 20-17 win, Washington improves to 4-2 to take first place in the NFC East while Dallas drops to third place at 3-4.
Officials explain snap infraction
NFL officials highlighted the infraction in a video posted on Twitter, showing Ladouceur moving the ball prior to Payne jumping over the line.
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) October 21, 2018
Cowboys’ comeback thwarted
The field-goal attempt came after Dallas scored a late touchdown and forced a Washington punt after trailing 20-10 in the final minutes of the game.
The Cowboys closed the deficit to 20-17 with a 12-play 74-yard drive that ended with quarterback Dak Prescott scoring from third-and goal at the 1-yard line with 1:37 remaining.
Washington managed to run just 28 seconds off the clock on the ensuing possession that ended with quarterback Alex Smith running out of bounds while trying to scramble for a first down. The clock stoppage preserved Dallas’ final timeout.
The Cowboys took over at their own 36-yard line after a Washington punt and drove the ball 30 yards to set up the attempt at a game-tying field goal.
But Maher’s kick that looked good from 47 was just off target at 52 yards, preventing a late Redskins collapse.
Prescott turnover proves costly
Prescott was solid passing for the Cowboys, throwing for 273 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. But a critical fumble on a Ryan Kerrigan sack deep in Dallas territory proved to be the difference in the game.
Redskins linebacker Preston Smith recovered the fumble for a touchdown that gave Washington a 20-10 lead with 4:55 remaining.
It was an evenly played game with both teams struggling to get much going on offense. The Cowboys tallied 323 yards of total offense compared to 305 yards for the Redskins.
Turnovers ended up playing the difference. Prescott lost a second fumble in addition to the one that led to the Smith touchdown, accounting for the only two turnovers in the game.
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