- - Friday, December 1, 2017

ARLINGTON, Texas – Propped against a beam in the middle of the Redskins; locker room, Josh Norman spoke in a quiet voice that exposed the frustration inside.

The Redskins had just played their biggest game of the season Thursday night, and they had fumbled it away in a morass of turnovers, special teams breakdowns and defensive lapses.

Given a chance to save their season, they shot themselves in the foot in a 38-14 loss to the slumping Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, falling to 5-7 and all but eliminating themselves from playoff contention.

Instead of rising to the occasion, the Redskins fell flat on their faces.

“Losing is draining. Losing is draining,” the cornerback repeated, still stunned by the outcome. “No matter how you get to it, no matter what happens in the game, what the situation is, offense, special teams or defense — losing is losing.

“The chances were there for us, man. They were there. We just didn’t reach out and grab it. It sucks because the anticipation of it. We really felt like we went into this game and were going to have a good one. And one thing led to another …”

And another. And another. Indeed, Washington’s mistakes snowballed in each half, eventually building into an avalanche that buried their sagging playoff hopes.

“We did shoot ourselves in the foot,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “We understand that. … We knew what was at stake for us. We knew all week long. We talked about it. We prepared for it. It’s just unfortunate we weren’t able to pull it off.”

The collapse began with a perfect pass from Kirk Cousins in the first quarter that skipped off Jamison Crowder’s hands right to Dallas’ Jeff Heath for an interception at the Dallas 5, killing a chance to take an early lead. It continued when Crowder fumbled away a punt return, flipping the field and eventually leading to a Cowboys’ touchdown.

Cousins followed with a fumble that set up a field goal, and Cowboys’ punt returner Ryan Switzer took advantage of a hole in the middle of Washington’s coverage team to race for an 89-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

“Everything changed when we turned over the ball,” linebacker Zach Brown said. “We can’t have any turnovers. When you come into their house, at the end of the day you’ve got to protect the ball.”

In the second half, the defense couldn’t stop former Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who ran for 89 of his 127 rushing yards after halftime, allowing Dallas to control the clock and put the game — and Washington’s season — away in the fourth quarter.

Coach Jay Gruden said the problem wasn’t about effort, or lack of energy or coming up flat in a big situation.

“I wouldn’t say it was flat. I’d say we just dropped the ball,” he said. “I think the effort’s fine. We just got beat tonight. We gave them too many opportunities. … Credit them for making the plays. We just didn’t make any.”

The loss leaves the Redskins three games behind Atlanta in the loss column for the final NFC wild-card spot with four games to play. While it isn’t a mathematical impossibility to earn postseason berth, it is extremely improbable.

So now what happens?

Crowder, whose ball-security issues got the snowball rolling had a simple answer — you keep going.

“I think it’s human nature to get down on yourself,” he said. “I just tell myself to keep playing. Things are going to happen good. Things are going to happen bad. Whatever happens, you’ve got to ride the wave and keep going.

“It’s tough, but you’ve got to keep playing. We’ve got four more games left. … It’s not the end of the world.”

Perhaps not. But it sure seemed to feel that way to Norman.

“We just never could get that stride, that pony stride and get out there and get off to the races, let the horses get out front,” he said. “We never could get it.

“But we’ve got to keep on fighting. We’ve got four games left. We’re not going to tank anything, so don’t expect that to happen at all. Our best chance is to go 9-7, and that’s what we’re going to shoot for.”

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