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Five observations from the Redskins' gutsy 20-17 win over the Cowboys

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Five observations from the Redskins' gutsy 20-17 win over the Cowboys

A streak ended Sunday as the Redskins beat the Cowboys 20-17 in thrilling fashion. Late in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys back up near their goal line, Ryan Kerrigan got a sack and strip on Dak Prescott. His battery mate Preston Smith grabbed the ball and walked into the end zone for the touchdown.

The Cowboys had a chance to send the game into overtime, but a 52-yard attempt from Brett Maher bounced off the left upright, giving the Redskins the victory.

Washington had lost their last four contests against Dallas, and the win puts the team securely in first place of the NFC East with a 4-2 record. 

How did it shake out? Here are five observations:

Five Observations from Redskins vs. Cowboys

1. Winning With Defense: 

The key to beating Dallas is to limit their ground game, and it worked for Washington, Ezekiel Elliott had just 13 rush yards in the first half, the second fewest of his career.

He finished with 35 yards and his lack of success forced the Cowboys to try and win with Prescott throwing the ball. It didn't work. Prescott finished with 273 pass yards, but most of it came on a few big chunk plays, including a 49-yard touchdown pass to end the first half.

2. All day, Seriously: 

The Redskins offense is entirely reliant on Adrian Peterson. That was not the plan this offseason, but through seven weeks of the NFL season, it's working out fairly well. Peterson finished the game with 99 rush yards and is only a few yards behind ninth-place Tony Dorsett on the NFL's all-time rushing record. Peterson has shown that any suggestion he had lost a step at age 33 is simply naive.

He has the vision and strength to break tackles, almost at will. 

3. Ugly Third: 

The Redskins defensive front played a tremendous game, and the third quarter was the best example. The Cowboys offense ran six plays in the third quarter and gained only four yards. Kerrigan landed his first Prescott sack near his own end zone, and the interior defensive line of Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis smothered Ezekiel Elliott. 

4. Close But No Paydirt: 

The Redskins have a real problem, and it's called scoring touchdowns. On Sunday, that did not bite them against the offensively challenged Cowboys, but eventually, it will be a problem. Dustin Hopkins kicked field goals of 21 and 25 yards, which means the offense is sputtering in goal-to-go situations. Think about this way: Preston Smith has more second-half touchdowns this season than Alex Smith.

The Washington QB played fine, but not good, again. He did throw a first-half TD to Kapri Bibbs, and maybe more importantly, had no turnovers.

5. Walk It Like You Talk It:

 D.J. Swearinger and Zach Brown talked throughout the week leading up the game that the Redskins must deliver consistent performances to be taking seriously as a contender. Both players delivered. Swearinger forced a fumble, and recovered the ball, in the first half and Brown led the game with nine tackles.

Brown's lateral speed was on display throughout the contest and paired with Mason Foster, the front seven played a stout game. Washington gave up just two big bulk plays, both in the pass game, that accounted for most of the Dallas offensive production. 

Honorable Mention:
  • The Redskins won in Week 6 against the Panthers because they forced three turnovers and played good defense. That formula worked again on Sunday, as the defense forced two turnovers and gave up just 10 points.
     
  • Don't look now but the Redskins special teams are balling, again. Punter Tress Way played a great game, and in a field position battle, he was vital. Often kicking on a short field, Way never kicked a ball into the end zone and repeatedly pinned the Cowboys inside their own 20. Against an offense as incapable as the Cowboys, that kind of performance on special teams goes a long way. 

 

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Redskins vs. Cowboys: The Highs and Lows from Week 7

Redskins vs. Cowboys: The Highs and Lows from Week 7

 

By the time these arch-rivals kicked off late Sunday afternoon for Week 7 at FedEx Field, this much was true: Either the Washington Redskins or Dallas Cowboys would end the day atop the NFC East thanks in part to the Philadelphia Eagles' fourth-quarter collapse.

Should the Redskins win a second consecutive game for the first time since Week 15-16 last season, Washington would hold a 1 1/2 game lead.

Of course, week-to-week consistency hasn't been on the menu in 2018 even at home. 

The Redskins entered their first NFC East game of the season without Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson, Chris Thompson and Quinton Dunbar, who popped up on the injury report late in the week with a shin injury.

Here's what went right and what went wrong in Week 7 between the Redskins and Cowboys.

Redskins vs. Cowboys: The Highs and Lows

FIRST QUARTER:

HIGHS: The Redskins entered Sunday 3-0 when scoring first, but 0-2 when the opponent generates a game’s initial points. Therefore, Kapri Bibbs taking a perfectly executed screen pass 23 yards for a touchdown on Washington’s first drive offers hope.

LOWS: Washington’s defense stopped Dallas on Fourth-and-1 from the Cowboys’ 45-yard line as D.J. Swearinger forced a fumble as quarterback Dak Prescott sought space. This good news lands in the bad section because the offense did nothing with the opportunity. They quickly punted without generating a first down on the brief drive.

The Redskins didn’t capitalize on similar opportunities against Carolina with a chance to create significant separation, and the Panthers nearly rallied in the second half.

SECOND QUARTER:

HIGHS: Gameplans against the Cowboys offense go something like this: Stop running back Ezekiel Elliott. Not easy, of course; Elliott entered Week 7 second in the NFL with 586 yards.

Therefore, credit the Redskins defense in the first half. Elliott had 13 yards on 10 carries. Inside linebacker Zach Brown, among the players consistently around in the fray on run attempts, had eight tackles in the first half.

LOWS: Rookie-on-rookie crime put Dallas on the scoreboard. With the ball at Washington’s 49-yard line, receiver Michael Gallup ran a classic stop-and-go, the kind of play sneaky kids attempt in backyards across the country with mixed reviews.

This try turned into a smashing success for the visitors. Greg Stroman, starting on the outside in place of Dunbar, bit on the fakery. Gallup sprinted past the cornerback and Prescott fed his wide-open receiver in stride for the tying touchdown.


THIRD QUARTER:

HIGHS: We have a Jordan Reed sighting. 

The biggest play on a 74-yard scoring drive came when Smith, who to this point is turning in a rather uninspiring performance, found the tight end crossing the field. Reed’s legs did the rest on the 27-yard gain, which set Washington up with a First-and-goal from the Dallas 9-yard line.

Considering the injuries at wide receiver, not to mention Reed's high-end talent, he needs more targets. 

LOWS: One issue with the aforementioned drive: The Redskins needed 75 yards for a touchdown. After Adrian Peterson ran into Vernon Davis on third-and-short, Dustin Hopkins booted a 21-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.  Washington's drives have at least reached its own 44-yard and entered Dallas territory five times, yet only led to 10 points.

FOURTH QUARTER:

HIGHS: We can stop wondering when Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith would make a major impact on the season. The two pass rushers combined for just one sack through five weeks. They joined forces to seal the win late in the fourth quarter. Dallas, trailing 13-10 with just over 5:02 remaining, faced 3rd-and-14 from its own 10 after a holding penalty wiped out a chain-moving grab. Kerrigan, who had sack earlier in the game, wrapped up Prescott for number two on the day. This one came with a bonus. As he wrestled Prescott down at the goal line, the football popped up right into the arms of Smith, who carried the freight one yard for a touchdown.

LOWS: Similar to last week’s win over Carolina, the victory didn't come easy and caused ulcers for the Burgundy and Gold faithful. Dallas pulled within a field goal on Prescott’s touchdown run with 1:37 remaining capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive. The Redskins immediately went three-and-out with Alex Smith getting tackled out of bounds on third down, thus allowing Dallas to keep its final timeout. The Cowboys moved the ball, and then moved it some more until reaching Washington's 28-yard-line with three seconds remaining. Overtime, here we come.

Except, that didn't happen. Dallas committed a snap infraction penalty, taking the ball back five yards. Brett Maher launched a 52-yard field goal and found the left goalpost.

HIGHS: The quarterback remains mediocre -- Smith finished 14 of 25 for 178 yards. The offense cannot put opponents away. Injuries are fraying the receiver and secondary units.  Yet the Redskins are now 4-2. Here's another similarity to last week's win. The Redskins won. 

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