Heroes & Zeroes
Heroes & Zeroes
Dallas Cowboys 17 Washington Redskins 0
This was a game the Cowboys had to win. On the other hand, since the Redskins seemed to be in such disarray, it could easily have been a game Dallas overlooked. Te Redskins are not a very good football team. But they have a talented roster, nonetheless. Add that to the fact that nothing gives them greater pleasure than beating the Cowboys and you have an intriguing match up. Unfortunately for football fans, the game was an ugly display of what happens when one team is playing well and the other is just looking for the end.
This was, by no means, a perfect game for Dallas. I would like to think that their lack of innovation - especially on 4th down plays - was caused more by Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett's unwillingness to show next week's opponent - the Philadelphia Eagles (who will be playing for the division title) - than it was poor execution by the Cowboys (it was probably a little of both). Regardless, at no time last night did I think that Dallas would blow their lead. The Redskins were just too inept.
Jason Witten, Tight End -- With the emergence of Miles Austin as the number one receiver, it's sometimes easy to forget the contributions of the best tight end in team history. Amazingly, Witten's 69 yard reception, in the first quarter, was the longest of his illustrious career. His ability to get open, catch the ball and avoid the first tackle is amazing even if you don't realize what a superb blocker he is as well.
Jay Ratliff, Nose Tackle -- Ratliff is considered undersized for his position. Yet he made the Pro-Bowl last year and may very well make it again this year. He has emerged as one of the best in the game and his two sacks last night were a big reason why the Cows pitched a shutout. He has 6 sacks this year, after finishing last year with 7 - unheard of from a nose tackle.
Bradie James, Inside Linebacker -- While he hasn't been mentioned much this year (by me, anyway), James is a solid middle linebacker. He has led the team in tackles for each of the past 5 years and is considered the "quarterback" on defense because he is responsible for play calling. He finished with a season high 10 tackles last night and really kept the Redskins' run game in check.
Roy Williams, Wide Receiver --As I asked last week, how many times can one player be listed in this category? Apparently, more than I thought. To his credit, Williams made a nice touchdown catch in the first quarter. But it wasn't a very difficult one, as Romo threw the ball perfectly. However, he dropped two other passes, including one where he was wide open and the ball was thrown perfectly. I didn't know if he has lost confidence, or not. But until Williams begins to show he can contribute consistently, consideration must be made to replace him as the starter.
Miles Austin, Wide Receiver -- Austin had a very good game last night. But his boneheaded play at the end of the half cost Dallas points, in what was then a 14-point game. Romo also deserves a piece of the blame for throwing over the middle with no timeouts left and 15 seconds on the clock. But Austin still had an opportunity to run out of bounds, which would have given new kicker, Shaun Suisham an opportunity to kick a field goal.
Marion Barber, Running Back -- For the past four years, Barber has been a consistent scoring and short-yardage machine. But this year has been a different story. While he still has a slight chance to gain 1,000 yards (he'll need to gain 159 against the Eagles), his TD production is down from 2 and 3 years ago, and he's been stopped short on a number of crucial 4th down plays. In his defense, it's hard to gain anything when the defense is in your face two yards behind the line of scrimmage. However, in the last four games, he's averaged less than 3.5 yards a carry. Considering the fact that he slowed down near the end of last season as well, it should be obvious that with Tashard Choice on the roster, Barber should have been used more wisely earlier in the year.
Regardless of how boring the game was, the Cowboy defense looked very impressive. I don't care how bad your opponent is, scoring a shutout - in the opponents home field - is not an easy task. The Cowboys D seems to be peaking at the right time. The offense also looks good, I should add. If the Cows had been a little more creative on 4th down (on three occasions), the score could well have been 35-0 instead.
Now they face the Eagles for the division championship. Last year, faced with the opportunity to just make the playoffs, the Cows laid an egg and were demolished by Philly 44-6. This is a very different team. I do think the Cowboys are playing with tremendous emotion and heart right now. Because of the way the NFL playoff schedule works out, it's likely that these two teams will also compete the following week in the Wild-Card round. The winner this week will host that playoff game. So there is a whole lot at stake. It goes without saying that Dallas would prefer to play the Eagles twice at home, than have to face them in the playoffs in Philadelphia.
Next Sunday's Game
Dallas Cowboys ...............20