The Dallas Cowboys went into FedEx Field and got a pressing win against a divisional foe in the Washington Redskins. It was wet, it was sloppy, and at times it was downright frustrating, but the Cowboys made some big plays on offense, defense, and in the kicking game to get the job done. For the fourth-straight game, the Cowboys have scored 30+ points and have put themselves right in the thick of things for the NFC playoff picture.
Here are 10 quick observations from Sunday’s contest
1. Have yourself a game, Orlando!
The Cowboys cornerbacks have been under fire in recent weeks as they have been vulnerable to big plays that have proved costly. With a slew of young guys scattered all over the place, things have been painful. Anthony Brown seems like a completely different player than what we saw last year as a rookie. Jourdan Lewis had one of the weakest tackle attempts I’ve seen all season.
But then there’s the savvy veteran, Orlando Scandrick, that flat out came to play on Sunday. He was remarkable. Not only is he such an effective open field tackler, he made some big time plays.
Of course no play was bigger than when he picked up the blocked field goal and ran it back 86 yards to set up a Cowboys touchdown. It changed the entire complexion of the game as the Cowboys would roll off 19 straight points after the block.
2. Can we get a “well done” for Bailey’s replacement?
If Dan Bailey is automatic and Jeff Heath is semi-automatic, then the Cowboys would seek out someone who can be a happy medium between them. Earlier in the week, the organization decided that Mike Nugent would be that guy. It didn’t take very long for us to start missing Bailey as Nugent would miss his first attempt in a Cowboys uniform. It was deflating to come up with nothing after a 14-play drive.
Fortunately, things got better. Nugent would go on to hit his next four kicks and actually accounted for all of the offensive scoring in the second half. It was reassuring to see this kind of performance from Nugent, especially with news that Bailey could be out several weeks.
Last Sunday, Mike Nugent took his daughter to the zoo in Columbus, Ohio. Today, he kicked 4 FGs. Had tried out for Redskins the week before.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) October 30, 2017
Funny thing is the kicker the Redskins settled on, Nick Rose, had a tough day today. Not only did he have a field goal blocked, but he missed an extra point late in the fourth quarter. Fate can be a fickle mistress.
3. What is up with the penalties?
The Cowboys would commit eight penalties for a total of 89 yards which is just rotten. What was more concerning is that a large amount of these penalties came from the Cowboys offensive line. The two replacements, La’el Collins and Jonathan Cooper, had been playing real well recently, but they both got a little grabby, committing holding penalties. We can shrug our shoulders to some extent about those guys making mistakes, but it’s a little disheartening to see Tyron Smith struggle. Not once, not twice, but three times Smith would get called for holding. None of them was more costly than the one that negated an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run. Of course, Cowboys Nation didn’t think it was a very good call.
Harsh call on Tyron. Kept his hands inside and was still pushing at time of 'hold'. If that's a hold, 95% of run plays should also be.— Dan Turner (@dtsturner) October 29, 2017
Even Jason Witten had a holding penalty that negated a catch and run that would have set up Dallas first and goal inside the five-yard line. Instead, it moved them back and Nugent would miss a 49-yard field goal. The Cowboys offense would constantly put themselves behind the chains with costly penalties.
3/19 and 3/14 on consecutive drives is a good way to put this offense (or any) in unsuccessful spots.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) October 29, 2017
4. Switzer looks skittish
I don’t know if he was given a certain set of instructions about how to go about handling the ball in these wet field conditions, but one thing was clear - Ryan Switzer was super careful on Sunday. Sure, it sticks with you when you see loose balls flying around left and right, but Switzer was hell-bent on not putting the ball on the turf.
On several instances, he opted to let the ball bounce when he wasn’t able to get under it in time to where he felt he could make a clean catch. One of those times it cost the Cowboys some yardage as the ball took a good bounce for the Redskins. But the most puzzling moment came when he fielded a kickoff where he gave himself up real easy at the 15-yard line. Even the coaches weren’t very thrilled with that decision.
5. What was going on with Dez?
We all know about the Dez Bryant and Josh Norman feud and it made a fun little side story to this game, but Bryant appeared to be animated about something as he was seen talking to coaches on the sideline.
Maybe he felt he could win his matchup regularly to where he needed more looks? Maybe he wanted the Cowboys franchise receiving TD record? These things entered our minds when the broadcasters started making a deal about it. It was even said that when he was holding up two fingers it was to suggest he’s saying “I only have two targets” as if to infer he wanted the ball.
Sometimes it’s better to not overthink things.
6. The big three on the defensive line were at it again
Everyone knows how great DeMarcus Lawrence has been playing this season. His sack streak continues as he’s had a sack in each of the first seven games of the season. He now leads the league with 10.5 sacks on the year. And David Irving continues to be a mad force in the middle as he had two sacks and now has a total of five after just three games. He’s actually sacking the quarterback at a higher rate than Lawrence so far. He also had a nice pass deflection that led to the pick six by Byron Jones. These two together are beasts.
Then there’s Tyrone Crawford. He doesn’t get a lot of love, but it’s important to mention that he’s now had four sacks over the last five games. On Sunday his sack would come with a strip that gave the defense a big takeaway. And we can’t forget that it was his outreached hand that blocked the field goal that led to the game’s biggest turning point.
We all are privy to the fact that the Redskins offensive line was banged up in a bad way so this performance shouldn’t be all that surprising to anyone. But hats off to these guys for continuing to show up week-in and week-out.
After 7 games:— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 30, 2017
Tyrone Crawford is on pace for 9 sacks.
DeMarcus Lawrence is on pace for 24.
David Irving is on pace for 20 in 12 games
7. Jaylon and Taco almost made big plays
Sure, I know that almost only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and Eagles Super Bowls, but tell me you weren’t excited when you saw those guys almost come down with game cinching interceptions? While both plays ended up being incomplete, it was a great display of athleticism to fully extend and grab the pass.
The reduction of reps clearly is helping Smith as he’s had two-straight solid performances. The lack of early production from Taco bothers a lot of people, but this Cowboys pass rush has never been so alive. As long as he continues to trend upward, his slow learning process isn’t hurting anything.
8. Some bottom roster guys are making plays
The Cowboys activated defensive tackle Richard Ash last week to give the team more push in the middle after the unexpected retirement of Stephen Paea. So far he has done a solid job as he had two tackles against the Redskins, including a stop behind the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t get a lot of reps, but he’s doing a good job in what playing time he’s getting.
The team also has made Bene Benwikere active recently as a “just in case” insurance policy if one of their cornerbacks get hurt. He plays sparingly on special teams and made his first big play as a Cowboys player when he recovered a fumble after Keith Smith hit Chris Thompson on a kickoff return.
9. Run defense looks great
It’s easy to push aside Carlos Hyde’s 68-yard effort last week because San Francisco was playing from behind right from the get-go, but after shutting out the Redskins run game, it’s worth mentioning. Rob Kelly was the Redskins leading rusher and he only had 19 yards on eight carries. In a game where the weather was a factor, running the ball becomes even more important. But Washington couldn’t get it going. They became one-dimensional and relied solely on the arm of Kirk Cousins.
The return of Sean Lee has brought with him the return of the Cowboys run stopping defense. The real test comes next week when they face the Kansas City Chiefs rookie sensation, Kareem Hunt.
10. Was this Zeke’s last game for a while?
Ezekiel Elliott has been on fire these last two week as he’s combined for 373 total yards and five touchdowns in that span. And it would have been even more if his last TD wasn’t called back for holding. If fans started having any doubt early on about whether or not he’s lost a step, all of that doubt has been removed after these last two performances. He actually accounted for more than half of the team’s total offense.
Tomorrow is a big day as we are likely to find out whether or not Elliott is available to play the remainder of the season.
Jerry Jones: "Zeke has in no way, by any standard in this country, done anything wrong. He’s done nothing wrong. The league has tried to say that he’s done something that we disagree with. We all don’t agree with that. I want him to get a fair shot and he deserves that. "— Brandon George (@DMN_George) October 30, 2017
What’s on your mind after this nice divisional victory over the Redskins?