It's time for the weekly review of the last game played by the Dallas Cowboys' next opponent. We are headed to Landover to play the Washington Redskins, so I went through the game video of their game against the Miami Dolphins. This is a very convenient game for me, because the Dolphins are also our Thanksgiving opponent, and with the short week, I will likely be using my game notes to talk about them before that game.
But for now, I am focused on the Washington Redskins, one of our favorite teams to hate. There have been some memorable contests, with exciting wins and bitter losses for us. Sadly, this does not look to be one of the great games in the series, because the Redskins are quite frankly in a bunch of trouble right now. Riddled by injuries, beset with fan dissatisfaction over their 3-6 start and five game losing streak, the 'skins are fading fast. While the Cowboys can never take them for granted, this game should not, according to just about any way you look at it, be very competitive.
What I saw after the jumpy thingie.
One of the odder seeming things I read before I looked at the video was Mike Shanahan's reasoning that Rex Grossman would be starting because
"I was impressed by the way he played," Shanahan said of Grossman.
This seemed very improbable to me. Until I watched the video. And actually, Shanahan has a point. Rex was throwing the ball well, especially over the middle where he was frequently able to find receivers in the soft spot in the zone coverage. He had two interceptions, but the first was caused when the receiver slipped. Under pressure, Rex put the ball exactly where Leonard Hankerson was supposed to be, but with him having fallen down, it was an easy pick. Hankerson would later go out with a torn labrum, which is not as amusing or impossible as the torn labia many have claimed he had.
Grossman was under a lot of pressure throughout the game, getting sacked three times and hit six. The sacks came from rushers who were unblocked. The only really bad throw was the second interception, in the fourth quarter when the score was still 13-9. The Redskins had mounted a good drive and had a first and goal right on the Miami 10. Rex was trying to get the ball to Jabar Gaffney, but he locked in on him and did not see the field. Mostly, he did not see Karlos Dansby, who played his assignment perfectly and stepped between quarterback and receiver to grab the ball and return it nine yards. Miami then drove the length of the field and got the final touchdown of the game to put it effectively out of reach at 20-9 with 6:07 left in the game. That 14 point swing was the death blow.
But Rex was doing all he could. That was not enough. Washington moved the ball, only punting the ball twice, but bogged down every time it got into the red zone.
The Washington rushing game was largely nonexistent in this game. I was struck by a comment from one of the announcers, who said at the end of the 1st quarter, "Rex Grossman, other than two sacks, has really been terrific. Not a lot of support out of the run game." And it never came. Washington only got 61 yards on the ground, and 21 came on a run from Roy Helu late. Helu only got six carries, and was much more effective than Ryan Torain, who only got 1.8 yards a carry. Helu did not get a carry until the 4:59 point of the third quarter. In hindsight, the team should have gone with Helu earlier, since he showed some ability to read the zone blocking scheme Shanahan uses and make the cutbacks to use the lanes that blocking scheme opened up. There were several plays where you could see that lanes had opened up for Torain to exploit, but he did not appear to see them at all and just plowed into the mass of humanity straight ahead of him. From a quick glance at Hogs Haven, I gather that the expectation is for Helu to get the start, and he certainly appears to be a greater threat on the ground. But offensively, the Redskins are having trouble protecting Rex (including Helu, who missed a blitz pickup), and if Sean Lee is a bit more effective with a smaller cast replacing the Q Tip the Cowboys should be able to control the run. Add in some pass rush, and the Cowboys defense should be able to handle the 'skins.
When they were on defense, it was evident that the strength of the Washington defense is the linebacking corps. Rookie Ryan Kerrigan was slamming from his OLB, getting two strip sacks (only one of which Washington was able to recover). And ILB Perry Riley was all over the place, tied for the team lead in tackles with 9, including 4 for a loss. He was especially impressive in a couple of screens that he absolutely blew up. Brian Orapko was also effective and London Fletcher was his normal excellent self. One thing that the Redskins should look at is having Riley and Fletcher on the field together more often. Often, Riley spelled Fletcher and took over the job of calling the defensive sets. The line was not that far behind, with Barry Cofield and turncoat Stephen Bowen had significant contributions, Bowen getting the one fumble recovery. The secondary was less effective, but still had some decent play. The Dallas pass protection will have to be better than Miami's, but I think the Cowboys receivers are definitely stronger than Miami's, and I am a bit excited to see how DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, with Tony Fiammetta leading, will do. Reggie Bush did do some damage, getting both the Dolphins touchdowns, and I definitely rank Dallas' running backs as better than Bush and Daniel Thomas. Miami only got 3.1 yards a carry, and that was padded by a couple of Matt Moore runs and the 18 yard run on a bit of a gadget play for Bush that produced the second touchdown.
Special teams were not special. Graham Gano missed two of his five field goals, both of them at the end of the field that seemed to cause both teams problems (Miami's Dan Carpenter missed one at the same end.) They also gave up a 30 yard kick return and an 18 yard punt return, which is not terrible, but not great either.
All in all, the Redskins looked pretty beatable. However, Rex Grossman is capable of some good play. If he gets some better protection, some production out of his depleted receiving corps, and some help from the running game, especially Helu, he might be a problem. And those linebackers are a concern. Here is hoping that the Cowboys bring the same game this Sunday that we saw unleashed against the Buffalo Bills. If they do, this will go well for them.