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Instant analysis Redskins 38, Cowboys 31

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Instant analysis Redskins 38, Cowboys 31

ARLINGTON, TX -– Earlier this month, the Redskins entered their bye week mired in an unsightly three-game losing streak and seemingly on the verge of coming apart at the seams.

Now they’re tied for second place in the division.

Welcome to the NFC East, 2012 edition.

Robert Griffin III tossed four touchdowns and the maligned defense forced three turnovers to lift the Redskins to a 38-31 victory over Tony Romo and the reeling Cowboys. It was the Redskins’ first victory over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in seven tries.

Washington improved to 5-6, while Dallas sunk to the same mark.

Griffin finished 20 of 28 passing for 311 yards and one interception, just a week after the standout rookie tossed four touchdowns in a 31-6 rout of the hapless Eagles.

In their first national television appearance of the season, Griffin and his teammates did most of the damage in the second quarter, completing touchdowns to wide receivers Aldrick Robinson, Pierre Garçon and Santana Moss. Running back Alfred Morris also scored in the period as the Redskins seized a 28-3 that the Cowboys would later challenge in a wild second half.

The 28 points were the most the Redskins scored in a quarter since the 1999 season.

Also in the second quarter, cornerback Josh Wilson forced a fumble and DeAngelo Hall intercepted Romo. Hall’s pick was his fourth of the season.

Much has been made of the Redskins’ propensity for allowing big plays. Now, they’re becoming known for producing them as well.

In the past two games, Griffin III and Co. has produced touchdowns of 68, 61, 59 and 51 yards – all on passes. This afternoon, Robinson’s touchdown was from 68 yards out; Garçon’s was 59.

It wasn’t known whether Garçon would even suit up for the game because he was concerned his tender right foot couldn’t withstand the pounding on the artificial surface here. But he deciding to play – and made his most significant impact since the season opener.

Garçon finished with five receptions for 93 yards, including a spectacular grab on his touchdown. He spun around to grab a pass that was thrown behind him, then outraced Danny McCray and Mike Jenkins to the end zone.

The touchdown that will have everyone talking, however, was the catch Moss made with five seconds remaining in the half. The veteran spun around, snagged a perfectly-placed back shoulder throw and tapped both feet as he fell out of the end zone. After a review, the score stood and the capacity crowd at Cowboys Stadium fell silent.

While Moss’ touchdown should have sealed the victory, it didn’t.

Romo and the Cowboys scored three times in the second half – on pass plays of 85-yards and 11 yards to Bryant and a 10-yard completion to Felix Jones.

Bryant’s second touchdown – scored with 8:18 remaining – cut the Redskins’ once insurmountable-looking lead to 35-28.

Kai Forbath, however, connected from 48 yards out with 2:58 to put the Redskins ahead 38-28. The first-year kicker is now 10 for 10 this season, seven of which have come from 40 or more yards.

Dallas got another field goal with 18 seconds remaining, but Hall prevented them from recovering the ensuing onside kick.

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Need to Know: Redskins OT Ty Nsekhe unlikely to go anywhere

Need to Know: Redskins OT Ty Nsekhe unlikely to go anywhere

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 20, 17 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 9
—NFL Combine (3/2) 10
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 56
—NFL Draft (4/27) 66
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 202

More free agency quick hitters

Ty Nsekhe not going anywhere There seems to be some confusion as to Ty Nsekhe’s free agent status. Some websites have him as a restricted free agent. But from what I can tell he will be an exclusive rights free agent. You need to have three accrued seasons to be a RFA. Nsekhe has two seasons from the last two years here but he came to the Redskins without any. He did appear in two games for the Rams in 2012 but he wasn’t on the roster long enough to accrue a season. This means that the Redskins will bring him back, probably on a one-year, minimum salary contract.

More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0

Thompson, Compton restricted The Redskins third-down back and Mike linebacker are restricted free agents as they each have three accrued seasons in Washington. The Redskins can tender them one-year contracts and then they can go out and solicit offer sheets that Washington would have an opportunity to match. RFA’s rarely end up changing teams so they both likely will be back.

Duke Ihenacho back? He played in 15 games at safety last year, starting 10. His play was competent in may respects but had the most missed tackles in the team, 15, despite being 10th on the team in snaps played. The coaches were reluctant to use him sometimes because he tended to freelance. Ihenacho will be an unrestricted free agent and I haven’t heard much talk about his status. That’s kind of unusual for a guy who started 10 games. If I had to guess I’d say he’s not going to return but that’s just a hunch.

Cousins to tag and sign? Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said that he believes that Kirk Cousins will get the franchise tag by March 1 and then “I suspect Cousins has a long-term deal with Washington agreed to.” I’m not sure what will happen between March 1 and July 15 that would get the Redskins to make a better offer or that would get the Cousins camp to lower their demands. But July 15 deals do happen so we’ll see. I’ll stick with my belief that if a long-term deal is not done by March 1 it won’t get done at all.

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In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Offseason questions: Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

Offseason questions: Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: It's tag day

Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

Finlay: Nick Novak. Graham Gano. Shaun Suisham. That's just a recent list of kickers the Redskins gave up on too early. 

Dustin Hopkins missed a couple of important kicks in 2016, especially after a very strong start to the year, but with a powerful leg and a sharp mindset he should absolutely be the 'Skins kicker in 2017. In two seasons with Washington, Hopkins has made 84 percent of his field goals and 95 percent of his extra points. Don't forget he routinely puts kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks too.

Yes, Hopkins missed a game winner against the Bengals and other important kicks later in the year. That happened. Missed kicks are a part of life in the NFL. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the Super Bowl. 

At 6-foot-2 and just 26 years old, Hopkins is young and athletic. Of 70 career field goal attempts, Hopkins has missed 11 times. Of the misses, six of them came from 50+ yards. In 31 games, Jay Gruden has proven he trusts Hopkins to attempt long kicks. The 'Skins would be well served to stick with the young kicker.

Tandler: 

Finding a quarterback may be the most difficult, least scientific task that NFL organizations must undertake. Deciding when to let go of a struggling kicker is second.

There are plenty of strong legs out there spending hours every day kicking on high school fields in hopes of getting an NFL tryout. But being successful as a kicker is as much about what is above the shoulders as it is what’s below the waist. It appears Hopkins had a mental slump last year but he came back to finish strong.

Hopkins started the year making 14 of his first 15 field goal attempts, with the miss coming in the wind in Baltimore. But then in the dome in Detroit he just missed a 45-yard try and that set off a slump where he missed five of 15 field goal tries. He pulled it back together and missed just two of his final nine kicks, one of them a “why not” 57-yard try at the end of the first half against the Giants.

So, it was more of a slump than a bad year for Hopkins. He continued to pound the ball into the end zone, finishing tied for fourth in touchback percentage. I would understand if they brought in some competition for him during training camp but it will be a major upset if he is not the Week 1 kicker.

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!