The Cowboys scored themselves a big victory in the season opener and created buzz centering around Kellen Moore’s new-look offense, and the excitement of it has fans clamoring for Moore Cowboys football. They won’t have to wait long, as the next game is part of the first slate of games on Sunday.
The Cowboys travel to the nation’s capital (well, just east of it in Maryland, actually) to FedExField to play the Washington Redskins. The last time this team traveled to DC, it was a gut-wrenching loss courtesy of the phantom snap infraction on veteran long snapper LP Ladouceur. It was also the game that convinced Dallas to go out and trade for Amari Cooper, which set their 7-2 end-of-season run in motion, as our own RJ Ochoa broke down here.
And while the Cowboys got to exorcise those demons when they beat the ‘Skins at AT&T Stadium a few weeks later, they now have the chance for revenge in Washington. A game that should have been easily won, and a game that could have been won if not for the controversial penalty, should add some extra fuel to the fire of one of the more storied rivalries in the NFL.
Playing each other for the first time on October 2, 1960, the Cowboys’ inaugural season, it’s a rivalry that’s mostly been dominated by America’s Team, especially in recent years. Dallas leads the all-time series 71-45-2 and in Jason Garrett’s tenure they’ve won 12 of their 17 matchups. Last year’s loss in FedExField snapped the Cowboys’ streak of five consecutive victories there, and it’ll be tougher to get back on track this week.
This Redskins team, especially their defense, is tough and underrated from a talent perspective. They got up 17-0 on the Eagles last week in Philadelphia, largely thanks to an efficient passing performance from Case Keenum and a strong defensive front led by Jonathan Allen. But when Allen left the game with an injury, the Eagles started moving the ball on offense. They scored 25 unanswered points in the second half as Washington struggled to control them at the line of scrimmage and had their own troubles running a clock-eating offense, as running backs Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson only managed 28 total yards on 13 carries.
As it stands, the ‘Skins will be without Allen for sure and most likely without Guice, who is dealing with a knee injury. That means that 34-year-old Adrian Peterson will get the start, returning to the field after being inactive last week due to an apparent falling out with head coach Jay Gruden. Nevertheless, the future Hall of Famer will be called upon to stabilize the ground game in hopes that Keenum, who attempted 44 passes against Philadelphia, won’t have to shoulder as much of the load.
When Washington hosted the Cowboys last year, Peterson put up 99 rushing yards on 24 carries but was held scoreless, and he helped pace an offense that put up just 13 points. This matchup should help the Cowboys defense rebound after giving up 120 yards on just 11 carries last week. The fact that Peterson will be making his season debut may also help if there’s any rust to be shaken off.
The more real threat on offense, though, is Keenum. Considered to be merely a stopgap player until rookie Dwayne Haskins is ready to take over, Keenum put on a show on Sunday, though most of it came in the first half. He threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers and finished with an impressive 117.6 passer rating. Most of his throws went the way of rookie wideout Terry McLaurin and running back Chris Thompson, players that Dallas will have to clamp down on to limit Keenum.
For the Cowboys’ offense, it should be another opportunity for Dak Prescott to show off his comfort in Kellen Moore’s offense. The Washington defense got gashed by the Eagles, especially in the second half, giving up 312 total yards of offense after halftime. That included surrendering 116 total rushing yards to three different running backs. They only managed one sack all game and it went for no loss of yards.
Missing Allen along the defensive line is sure to cause problems, but more than anything the Redskins were a Jekyll and Hyde team last week, while the Cowboys were consistently good all game long. If the first half ‘Skins can show up for a full game, they might be able to get an upset victory with help from the home crowd. If not, this game could go similarly to last week’s effort for both teams.