Alex Smith ran out of bounds rather than stay in and keep the clock running with his Washington Redskins clinging to a slim lead against the Dallas Cowboys, who had one timeout remaining.
On third-and-9 from his own 26-yard line with 1:26 left, the quarterback ran left to gain four yards, but opted not to slide in bounds
The mental error would have cost Washington, if not for a pair of Cowboys mistakes in the game’s closing seconds.
After Washington’s three-and-out, quarterback Dak Prescott got the ball with just over a minute remaining and led Dallas into Redskins territory to set up a potential game-tying field goal.
But a false start penalty on long snapper L.P. Ladouceur made a 47-yard attempt a 52-yarder. On a windy day on the road, rookie kicker Brett Maher hit the upright as time expired to fall 20-17 to Washington.
It was just Maher’s second miss of the season; the other came on his first ever NFL attempt.
For the fifth time in seven tries, Dallas held their opposition to 20 or fewer points. Smith connected on 14 of his 25 passing attempts for just 178 yards, one touchdown, and no picks. But Washington moved the ball on the ground, gaining 130 yards on 32 attempts; 99 of those belonged to Adrian Peterson.
Dallas, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically bad on the ground.
Star running back Ezekiel Elliott carried 15 times for just 33 yards, the second-lowest mark of his career. Prescott ran it six times for 33 yards and a score, and Jourdan Lewis rushed once for seven years.
“We have to do better on offense,” Elliott said, according to Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News. “We got to help this defense out. This defense is playing as good as any other defense in the league, probably the best defense in the league. And we’re not giving them any help. We haven’t given them any help on the road.”
With the win, Washington improved to 4-2, maintaining its hold on first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys dropped to 3-4 on the year.