The Dallas Cowboys rebound after a heart-wrenching loss to the Broncos by taking the cake at home over their division rivals in the Washington Redskins. Tony Romo played pretty well but the story of this game has to be the line play from Dallas, on both sides of the ball as well as special teams. Obviously the entire defensive line has been a plug and play unit to this point in the season and things got worse for them tonight when DeMarcus Ware exited the game early on. They had to rely on a rather remarkable performance at the interior from Jason Hatcher and George Selvie. Each let it all hang out and the entire line was able to get consistent pressure on Robert Griffin III. The coverage in the secondary was pretty good as well but there were a few busts that the RGIII missed due to the pressure in his lap. The Dallas offensive line also did a great job in neutralizing a great amount of the Washington blitzes. Outside of the interception on third down (that came off of a Josh Wilson tipped pass) the ‘Boys did a great job stalwarting the Redskins at the line and providing Tony Romo with enough time to hit his hot read.
Special teams, specifically the play of Dwayne Harris, was what really separated these two teams on this night. First came am 86 yard punt return for a touchdown (which brought the Dallas lead to 14-3 in the first half). Then, Harris returned a kickoff 90 yards to the Washington 15 yard line (following a Kai Forbath field goal that cut the game to 14-9). Two plays later Tony Romo cashed that return in for points when he found his wide-out Terrance WIlliams for a touchdown. Between the punt and kickoff returns, you can say that 14 Dallas’s 31 points were directly related. In what turned out to be a 15 point final spread, those two plays were massive in determining an outcome for this prime time extravaganza.
Robert Griffin III seems to be getting back into the swing of things, but his accuracy is still a tick down from a season ago. One thing that he still struggles with is third down conversions. Washington as a team was not that bad in converting on the money down (8/16) but three of those came on the ground. Take those away and the ‘Skins would have been 5/13, which isn’t as pretty. RGIII has struggled against the blitz on third downs throughout his career; that has been his one major weakness. The Cowboys actually stole a page out of Redskin defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s book and blitzed on a majority of all third down situations. This got Griffin’s feet moving and forced him to make a lot of off-balanced throws. Situational football certainly favored Dallas on this night.
The Redskins do have a gem in their tight end Jordan Reed. He has a lot of potential in this league. I think he is built like Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints and as he matures in this league he can become one of the elite tight ends. At the moment he is still pretty green, but give him a few years and he will be one of the top play-makers at that position. I bring this up because he did play a key role in this game. He had 4 receptions for 58 yards and was absolutely disregarded on a third down situation late in the game (so he could have had a lot more than 58 yards receiving). I’d look for the Redskins to work him more into their game-plan next week when they play host to the Bears; a team that has struggled to defend speedier tight ends.
Tony Romo wasn’t the be all end all here, but he played well enough to guide his team to a win. Isn’t it funny how he can throw for 170 yards, 1 touchdown and an interception and be more highly regarded for winning this week than when he lost last week (while throwing for 506 yards, 5 TDs, and one INT). My, how much of a difference a week makes. Anyways, the Cowboys can be a really good team if they operate the way they did on this night. On paper the offense was not good at all with only 213 total yards, but they didn’t have to be all that good. They did have 220 return yards in this game and only had the ball for 25:28, so the minuscule offensive numbers are excusable. That said, Dallas was able to move the ball when they had to for the most part and they are looking like a top-five offense in this league. That offense will take on a pretty vanilla Philadelphia Eagles defense next week when those two (now 3-3) teams duke it out to see who will take control of the NFC East. The Redskins wind up on the short end of the stick with this loss and are now forced to pick up the scraps of their season next week against a rock solid Chicago Bears team. It is not a stretch to say that that game is a must-win for Washington if they hope to make something of this 2013 season.