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Redskins close out Cowboys

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Redskins close out Cowboys

Arlington, Texas -

In summary: In a span of only six days, the Redskins ascended from afterthought to second place in the NFC East. 

And, all of a sudden, talk of a second half run to the postseason no longer sounds so farfetched. In fact, if the Giants lose to Packers on Sunday, the Redskins will play New York for first place in the NFC East on Monday NIght football 11 days from now.

Crazy? Robert Griffin III doesn't think so.

“It feels as if something is building,” Griffin III said after another spectacular outing. “Being 3-6, the character of your team is tested. If you don’t beat the Eagles, you’re 3-7 and you’re likely to kill your season or the morale of your team. Then we come out on Thanksgiving and really dominate the game, let [the Cowboys] back in and close it out. It was big for the mindset of everybody.”

“Hey,” he added, “We might have thought we could do it. Now we know we can do it and it’s in our hands.”

Click here for my Instant Analysis from Thursday's 38-31 triumph, then come back for 10 more notes, quotes and observations from Cowboys Stadium:

Turning point: With the Redskins ahead 21-3 late in the second quarter, cornerback DeAngelo Hall picked off Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo and returned the ball 27 yards to the Dallas 33 yard line. Four plays later, Robert Griffin III found Santana Moss for a scintillating six-yard touchdown that put the visitors firmly in control, 28-3, with five seconds remaining before halftime.

“This game is all about opportunities,” Moss said. “When you get turnovers, you have to capitalize.”

Offensive play of the game: Trailing 3-0 early in the first half, the Redskins struck on another long-range pass. Griffin tossed a bomb to Aldrick Robinson, who hauled the ball in for a 68-yard touchdown – four days after the duo hooked up on a 49-yarder against the Eagles.

Interestingly, Robinson had been whistled for a false start on the previous play. But instead of scrapping the call, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan just flipped alignment. 

“RG3 gave me a great ball,” Robinson said. “Once I saw where he threw it, I knew I had to put my burners on to the play the ball. I ran as fast as I could and got it.”

Defensive play of the game: Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, the Cowboys were on the move when Romo fired a ball over the middle to Dez Bryant. Bryant made a nice catch, but cornerback Josh Wilson put his helmet on the ball as he went for the tackle, dislodging it and causing a fumble. 

Safety DeJon Gomes recovered the fumble and took it 13 yards to the Cowboys’ 49. Seven plays later, Alfred Morris scored from one yard out to stretch the Redskins’ lead to 14-3. It was Morris’ first touchdown in six games.

Special teams play of the game: Midway through the fourth quarter, Kai Forbath thought the game might come down to a field goal – and it pretty much did. His 48-yarder with 3:03 remaining gave the Redskins a 10-point cushion.

It was Forbath’s first field goal of the day and made him 10 for 10 on the season.

“I tried not to thing about the situation,” he said. “I had a great warmup today and it was our first field goal of the day. But that’s part of the job, to go in there in the fourth quarter when you haven’t kicked one yet and we got it done today.”

Injury report: London Fletcher said he played as long as his ailing left ankle would let him. But after tweaking it for the second time in the fourth quarter, he told the coaching staff that he had become a liability. 

“Everything seems better when you win,” said Fletcher, who sprained the ankle against the Eagles and did not practice all week. “Injuries heal up a lot faster when you win.”

Fletcher also praised Keenan Robinson, who took his spot at inside linebacker. The 37-year-old captain also said he’s fortunate the Redskins now have 11 days until hosting the Giants.

…Linebacker Chris Wilson tweaked his hamstring but returned. He doesn’t believe the injury is serious.

Quote of the day: Hall on sliding at the Cowboys’ two-yard line instead of scoring in the game’s final seconds: “As big of a selfish guy as y’all think I am …” he cracked, making fun of his sometimes contentious relationship with the media. Hall and the reporters who surrounded him laughed. 

Quote of the day, Part II: Griffin on the standout play of his wide receivers: “I told those guys if they ball out like they have been, we can’t be stopped. I was sitting there having a conversation with Trent [Williams] as Pierre [Garçon] was running on his long touchdown. I was like, ‘Man, that was a great catch.’” 

Game ball: Griffin gets it. Morris was very good, running for 113 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. But Griffin stole the show – again. He was 20 of 28 for 311 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. In the past two games, he has tossed eight touchdowns.

“We’ve been able to hit the big plays more so that we were earlier in the year,” Griffin said. “You get more comfortable in the system, more comfortable with the guys around you. Everybody’s clicking at this point and we’re clicking at the right time.”

By the numbers: Griffin is the first Redskins’ quarterback to pass for four touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He’s also the first rookie to have more than one four touchdown performance in the same season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

By the numbers, Part II: With his third quarter interception, Fletcher became only the third active player to have 20 interceptions and 30 sacks. Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher are the others. 

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

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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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

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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