Okay, we spent enough time on this blog bashing the defense's play in the Redskins game, let's take a look at the offense and special teams from that 33-30 victory.
Dallas was down some offensive weapons in that game, missing Dez Bryant, Roy Williams and Kevin Ogletree from the receiving corps. That meant Sam Hurd saw a lot of time, and newly-promoted Manny Johnson got in on the act. Given that deficiency, the Cowboys spent a lot of time throwing the ball to tight end Jason Witten and relying on the running game. Witten caught 10 passes on the day, dwarfing the output of any other receiver. Felix Jones and Tashard Choice had six catches between them and were pretty effective with their receptions. Miles Austin ended up with only three catches, but managed to sneak a touchdown in among those.
The guy who really could have had a big day was Sam Hurd. The special teams ace was pressed into starting duty and caught four passes, including a crucial one on the winning field goal drive. But it was his two drops that ended up being a big issue.
"I should have had two touchdowns," Hurd said. "If I get a chance to start again, I am going to take full advantage of it. You just got to stay ready. You just got to stay ready, stay in your playbook, out there on the field work as hard as you can (and) try to get better every day."
Hurd's drops could have changed the win into a loss, but the Cowboys managed to salvage the day. Hurd has turned in excellent special teams work again this year, but there's a reason he's not a starting-caliber reciever. Drops like that will keep you sidelined.
Manny Johnson got some playing time, but didn't manage to get a catch, and was only targeted once. His thoughts on his play:
"I was just happy being out there playing for the first time," Johnson said. "I'm not going to be greedy about having balls coming my way. I was just having fun being out there. When I went out there I had total confidence I would stick to the game plan. It was fun."
"I think I did pretty good," Johnson said. "I blocked well, stuck to my assignments (and) didn't have many mental errors. So I think I did a good job."
Jon Kitna had been relying on Witten all game long, targeting him a game-high 12 times. But when it came down to the end of the game, and the Cowboys had to put together a drive for the winning field goal, he looked elsewhere. Hurd caught a nine-yard pass for a first down, then Miles Austin caught a 12-yard pass.
"Like I've said all along, I try as hard as I can to throw within the system," Kitna said. "At that time, that's where the ball was dictated to go. That's what we had to do.
"To me, it's staying within the system and not trying to force Jason the ball."
David Buehler has certainly had an interesting year. He started very slow, missing some crucial field goals making everybody wonder if he would last as the place-kicker. He righted himself through the mid-part of the season, but has seen his struggles return recently. He missed a short field goal right before the half that could have been a huge miss. His explanation of the miss:
"I got a little too excited," said Buehler, who had already hit two in the game. "I kind of sped some stuff up and got through the ball too quickly and kind of torqued my body without just kind of calming down."
Buehler on his season so far:
"It's been a roller coaster," Buehler said. "I'm finishing pretty strong, but there's still a few games left in the season, so I've got to go out and make every kick from here on out. I've just been through most of the scenarios a kicker can go through - game-winners, game-tying, long field goals at the end of the half. So I've learned how to handle myself, not get too pumped up, and stay poised.
"It's definitely helped me going through all these scenarios. You keep that mental intensity. That's what you've got to do, and keep the focus high."
If Buehler wants to remain as the Cowboys place-kicker in 2011, he's going to need some consistency and become automatic on the shorter field goals. But, he has hit a couple of game-winners in the recent weeks.
"It was like the Colts game (Dec. 5) - that was a 38-yarder and this was a 39-yarder," said Buehler, who made 4 of 5 tries and atoned for a 35-yard miss just before halftime. "It just feels great to go out there and help the team any way I could."
Anything under 40-yards should be automatic for a NFL kicker.
One guy we never worry about is punter Mat McBriar. He didn't get a lot of work in the Redskins game, he was called on only twice throughout the day. His first kick was a poor one, but he sure made up for it on his second one. Just when the Cowboys needed to shift the momentum towards the end of the game, McBriar boomed a 54-yard punt that died at the Redskins four-yard line. The Cowboys defense held and the Cowboys offense put up the winning points.
"That was about perfect," McBriar said. "I hit it really well and then in the air it sort of stopped going forward and the ball turned to the side so when it came down it came down really soft."
Indeed, a huge play in the game that is often overlooked.
So the Cowboys won, and while we may have been disappointed that they let Rex Grossman and the Redskins back in the game, they did manage to beat their arch-rival. So let's celebrate that. Jerry Jones is.
"I basically said to everybody, 'Don't remember one bad play. Just remember the good ones,' Jones said in the Cowboys Stadium tunnel. 'And some of you may have to look real hard to find that one, but remember it and let's savor this win.'
"The team went down there and got them three after really being hit hard. I'm proud of them."