Pretty much everything has already been written about the lackluster outing the Cowboys delivered last Sunday at home against the Cleveland Browns. The first half of that game was the worst half of football I’ve seen since the 44-6 shellacking that the Eagles put on us back in the 2008 finale. We scraped out a win by the barest of margins in overtime but a win is a win. Here the Cowboys sit at 5-5 with a clear path to the post season in front of them if they can take advantage of it.
One thing I did notice in this game is really for the first time – maybe ever - Jason Garrett actually adjusted his game plan to what was happening on the field. Romo was running for his life on every passing play in the first half. In the second half, the Cowboys went to a quick throw, short pass offense that for the most part nullified the Brown’s pass rush. Romo ended up throwing the ball 50 times. Garrett looked physically ill at times in this game – welcome to our world Jason! After the puzzling onside kick in the 3rd quarter, I thought for sure by the look on Garrett’s face that someone had just kicked him in the ribs. He looked as stunned as the rest of the Cowboys fans. Ugly, ugly game. But, its behind us and somehow we got the victory. Now, let’s look ahead at the Redskins.
One side note: I did not get to see the game live as I was travelling and picked up the game on Sirius satellite radio. It was the local Cowboys broadcast with Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg. I’m sorry to any of you that may be his fans, but Babe may quite simply be the worst broadcaster I’ve ever had to endure. His weird, rambling, mostly off topic observations included him gushing over referee Ed Hochuli saying at one point he would consider marrying him just to listen to his voice. Strange.
At any rate, here come the Redskins fresh off a pounding of the hapless Eagles. In fact, they beat the Eagles by a worse score than the Cowboys did just a week earlier. You would think that spells trouble for the Cowboys after just squeeking out a win over the 2-8 Browns. But, when you dig a little deeper, there are some encouraging things to note for the Cowboys.
First of all, whatever glimmer of hope the Eagles had coming into their game against the Cowboys was completely gone in this game once they fell behind. You wouldn’t hear them say it out loud, but this team has quit on Andy Reid and know he is a “dead coach walking”. This was a stunningly lackluster effort by the Eagles secondary and super rookie Nick Foles looked like a rookie throwing 2 interceptions in the first quarter alone.
Secondly, the headline coming out of this game was RGIII throwing 4 touchdowns. Impressive stat for sure but when you understand that he only threw for a total of 200 yards and only threw the ball 15 times, you see that this wasn’t a dominating Brady-esque performance. In fact, if you factor out his 61-yard bomb to Santana Moss which was more a bad play by the two defensive backs than it was a great play by Washington, he really only had 13 completions for 139 yards. Factor out his 41-yard touchdown pass earlier on a complete breakdown by the Eagles secondary and it drops to only 98 yards on 12 completions.
Don’t get me wrong – RGIII is plenty talented and capable of beating you in a lot of ways, but his 85 yards rushing would concern me more than his arm against a relatively good Dallas secondary. Add Alfred Morris and his 76 yards rushing against the Eagles and the handful of other carries and they totaled 169 yards rushing for the day on 32 carries, or over a 5-yard per carry average. For the season, the Redskins have a 5.2 yard per carry average including RGIII’s production. The Cowboys defense has to start with stopping the run and containing Griffin. They will need to pressure him but more importanly not let him escape for his signature scrambles.
On offense, the Cowboys face the 29th ranked pass defense. So, we’ll throw it all over the field, right? Probably not. Garrett has shown he sticks to the age-old formula of trying to establish the run game and uses that to set up the passing game. Let’s hope we don’t have to fall behind by 13 points or more before he realizes that with this makeshift offensive line, we aren’t going to be able to run the ball against the 7th ranked run defense in the NFL. I’m not sure I would bother bringing DeMarco Murray back for this game either. Let him rest another week instead of running him into a brick wall over and over and risking another injury.
The other key as it is in any game are the turnovers. The Cowboys are now -9 in turnover ratio for the season while the Redskins are +9. We have to play a turnover-free game and not give the Redskins and RGIII a short field. Make them earn every yard!
So, here come the 4-6 Redskins. But, throw out the records. This is ALWAYS a battle and there is nothing the entire Redskin organization would like more than to spoil our Thanksgiving. Despite the mediocre play, despite the injury-depleted roster, we must find a way to beat these guys. A third win in a row in this up-and-down season would be quite a step in the right direction – especially with the Giants facing this week a surging Packers team seemingly finding their stride. A Cowboys victory and a Giants loss means we will be tied for the division lead and facing a 5-game race for the division. A Cowboys loss combined with a Giant victory drops us two games back again and puts a real damper on our ability to win the division or make the playoffs as a wild card. We can’t let that happen. Cowboys 27, Redskins 20. Go Cowboys!