By Zach Walker
Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins
Sunday – December 22 – 12:00 PM
FedEx Field – Landover
The creativity level with the way that the Cowboys can lose games this season, is massively impressive. As impressive as the point deficit that they blew away to the Green Bay Packers. But the game was so two-faced; it’s almost unbelievable that they lost (unless, of course, you’ve watched this team before). The first half was all Cowboys, a completely one-sided affair, it even had a strong defensive feel to it, holding the Packers to just to just three points and only 132 yards total, compared to the Cowboys 332 yards (a club record) and 26 points. But the Cowboys could not finish drives in the endzone, and settled for five Dan Bailey field goals. Now I love Dan Bailey, and when he’s on the field, I don’t get the sinking feeling of helplessness, but five field goals is too much screen time for Bailey, I prefer his brilliant cameo work than his leading performances.
DeMarco Murray continued to be deflating to the opposing defense, finishing the half with 11 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown, but he would finish the game with 18 carries. Because the NFL has this rule, where every game has two halves, the Cowboys decided that in the second half, they would burn all memory of the first half and re-invent the wheel. Generally, in football, with a lead, you run the ball more than pass. The Cowboys went, in a 3:1 ratio, in favor of passing the ball. I understand the concept of being a multi-dimensional team, but I understand the “Let it ride” concept better. I don’t think anyone understands why the Cowboys thought that running the ball in the second half wasn’t a winning solution. I’m just thinking that the words “RUN THE BALL” have to be written in the sky, burned into lawns, and tattooed on cheerleader’s foreheads for the message to get across. Only Murray and Bailey get to be removed from the reticule crosshairs this week, Dez Bryant was in that bunch, with a Top 5 catch of the year touchdown in the fourth quarter, but leaving the field early isn’t the best display of sportsmanship. But the alternative is him “LeGarrette Blount-ing” somebody during postgame formalities, so I’ll take him ducking out early.
Right, the Redskins. They aren’t in playoff contention, and inside the team is a coach defying the owner by playing the backup quarterback over the starter. Mike Shanahan is trying to beat Dan Snyder into firing him or just letting him finish out his stay, because it’s a difference of seven million dollars that no one would just walk away from. His move to play Kirk Cousins looked like a good move, because Cousins’ numbers were excellent, 13 of 20 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. And like the Cowboys, the Redskins had good success on the ground; Alfred Morris had 11 carries and 75 yards. In the second half for the Redskins, the defense put up a goal line stand against Steven Jackson at the one yard line, but Cousins was intercepted on the next play. In the 4th quarter, the Redskins had a good drive going, with good passes sprinkled atop a run based drive, but Alfred Morris fumbled the ball. And the next time that Cousins had the ball, he threw another interception, again off of play-action. But Cousins final drive was amazing, going 10 of 13 passes and accounted for every yard on the three minute drive, but the Redskins would play for the win and go for the 2-point conversion. The conversion attempt would fail and the Redskins would lose the game, but they didn’t play losing football. They held the Falcons to under 250 yards offensively, but the Redskins fumbled the ball five times and lost every one of them. The NFC East must translate to “shoots off one’s own foot in pursuit of victory”.
What can the Cowboys do to win? Run the ball? They might start out running the ball very strongly, and then fade away from it. Play defense? The magic eight ball has told me to shake later, because Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne might both be out, and Bruce Carter might be the only linebacker playing that isn’t in his rookie season. And to be entirely truthful, how confident is anybody in the full unit, so losing players to injuries is really just a justification. The offense is what has to carry this team for the final two games. Which would be encouraging if the offense knew what they wanted to do. A heavy dose of multi-tight end formations might be in store, because of a hamstring injury to Terrance Williams, which means strong runs and savvy play-action opportunities. But anything, anyone says about how the Cowboys might approach the Redskins, should be taken in moderation.
Matchup of the Game
Dallas Pass Rush versus Washington Pass Blocking: An effective pass rush versus an inexperienced quarterback can be the heat to makes the kettle boil over, and with the Cowboys possibly being down their top two cornerbacks, the pass rush must be stuck on hunt for blood mode, because Orlando Scandrick will be on Pierre Garcon for a lot of the game, and I think Scandrick can hold up well, it’s still a size matchup disaster in the making. Ware, Hatcher, Hayden, Selvie, Brown, and Wilber must be on, for the defense to have a chance in this game.
Three Other Matchups to watch for:
DAL LB Bruce Carter vs WAS RB Alfred Morris
DAL LT Tyron Smith vs WAS LB Brian Orakpo
DAL TE Jason Witten vs WAS LB Perry Riley Jr.
Prediction: Dallas 35 – Washington 31. Points can, and will be scored.
Side Bet: A coach, coaching in this game will be fired at year’s end.