Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dallas prevails in defensive battle

Cowboys' Romo points to the Redskins defensive line after there was a penalty flag in Arlington, TexasReuters
The Redskins couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.
They faced the Cowboys on a night when Tony Romo and Dez Bryant weren’t 100%. Dallas’ offensive line was a mess, with center Phil Costa making four early snaps Romo wasn’t ready for.  Washington held a seven point lead in the second half and their defense didn’t give up a touchdown.
And yet the Redskins still couldn’t cash in.
In one of the more memorable performances of Romo’s career, Dallas prevailed 18-16 on the strength of two late field goals and a ferocious fourth quarter pass rush.   Here’s what we learned:
1. The Cowboys won on a night in which they often looked like amateurs. The center doesn’t know when to snap the ball.  The receivers don’t know where to line up or what routes to run. Some of that is due to all the injuries on the team, but Kevin Ogletree was the biggest offender and he’s been around a while.
Romo did his best to coach the guys on the field, but the Cowboys offense looked poorly coached.  At some point, you have to dial back the offense if the players can’t understand it.
2. Romo’s ability to throw on the run was a huge difference. On third-and-21 late in the fourth quarter, the Redskins brought an all out blitz.  (Their third straight such blitz.)  Romo rolled to his right to avoid the pressure and found Bryant one-on-one against DeAngelo Hall.  The result: First down, facemask penalty, Dallas lead.
Romo’s availability was the real key.  He played well on a night he was in a lot of pain because of a broken rib. He took a handful of big hits and kept coming back for more.
3. Bryant’s effort to play through injury shouldn’t be overlooked.  He ran at half speed on many snaps and sat out plenty of downs.  And he still led the Cowboys with 63 yards on four catches.
4. Rex Grossman leads the league in near interceptions. He was lucky to avoid picks on at least three bad decisions. He lost a fumble on Washington’s final drive to kill the Redskins’ last chance to win. Grossman also nearly avoided losing a fumble the drive before. We were very surprised Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t challenge the ruling on the field, which said Grossman was down before fumbling.
If Grossman has matured, we didn’t see it Monday night. Cowboys coordinator Rob Ryan largely had Grossman looking confused.
5.  The defenses for both of these teams are ahead of the offenses. Washington’s group is much improved from last year with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerriganrushing the passer. Stephen Bowen was a nice pickup on the defensive line. Safety LaRon Landry was a big difference maker in his return to the lineup.
The Redskins defense will win games for the team, but the offense still looks mediocre. Grossman seems just good enough to get you beat.
6. The Cowboys finally found a running game in the second half, and then Felix Jones re-injured his shoulder.
7. Redskins tackle Trent Williams did a nice job on DeMarcus Ware, except for the biggest snaps of the game.  That’s what great players do.
8. That loss could leave a mark in Washington. They were set up so well to go 3-0 and get two games up on Dallas, but couldn’t close the deal. The Cowboys have completed two terrific comebacks after their Week One gag job against the Jets.
These are the types of games the Cowboys usually lose.
9. All four NFC East teams are works in progress.  The Eagles are in last place, but have the most talent. It’s going to be a fascinating, wide open four team race.
I’ll stick with my preseason prediction: Giants to win division, Cowboys as a wild card.
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