When all was said and done, the Dallas Cowboys walked away from Monday night’s game with an important victory; a victory that should temper expectations regarding the improving Redskins. The question at hand is whether the Cowboys are a team that came from behind in the fourth quarter, or a Dallas team that couldn’t find a way to get the ball into the end zone?
Unfortunately, that question can only be answered with another question. Were the obstacles that the Cowboys faced with created by an aggressive Redskins defense, or were they the outcome of sloppy play and miscommunication?
Let’s take a stab at answering these questions.
Washington: Three Performances of Note
The Return of the Rex
There are some certainties in life: death, taxes, and the fact that Rex Grossman (-1.9) will make plenty of poor decisions. After two impressive outings, Grossman couldn’t get anything going behind a line that struggled in pass protection. It didn’t help that Trent Williams (-5.1 pass blocking) and Jammal Brown (-2.6 pass blocking) gave up a combined three sacks and nine hurries, but Grossman can’t use that as an excuse for some of the throws he made. It was that rare combination of forcing throws (he almost had another picked off by Terrence Newman at the start of the fourth quarter), overthrowing others and capping it off by ignoring basic concepts such as ‘ball security’ when the game was on the line, as the fumble that ended the game summed up his day. He must play better than this over the course of the season, otherwise the Redskins will be giving John Beck a chance to prove his worth.
A Tale of Two Corners
It seemed rather odd for DeAngelo Hall (-2.9) to come out and say he was going to target Tony Romo’s ribs. After all, this is a cornerback who has rushed the passer just once all season (in 176 snaps). That didn’t change in this game, and perhaps he should have been less focused on Romo, and more on covering the Cowboys’ receivers. Hall gave up five of the five balls thrown his way, for 85 yards, allowing four first downs and plenty of yards after the catch. In contrast, Josh Wilson (+3.1) made some big plays in the secondary. He allowed only three of eight balls thrown his way to be completed, in large part due to him breaking up four passes.
A Changing of the Guard?
Chris Chester earned himself a relatively lucrative contract due to some solid displays with the Baltimore Raven. Fortunately for him, that contract doesn’t feature any incentives for PFF Grades. If it did, he’d probably owe the Redskins some money after he accumulated a -9.7 rating. To put that in perspective, that’s not just bad, it’s unbelievably bad. Chester gave up six pressures in the passing game, but he was much worse in the run game. Six different times, Chester was beaten in such a way that he allowed his man to pick up a tackle on a short gain. It didn’t matter if it was Sean Lee (11:29 left in the second quarter), Jay Ratliff (1:57 left in the first) or Kenyon Coleman (12:28 to go in the game), they all beat Chester with ease and regularity in one of the worst displays from a guard you’re likely to see all season. He’s better than this, and will be looking for a return to the week two form that saw him earn a +4.0 grade against the Cardinals.
Dallas: Three Performances of Note
He’s big, he’s bad and he’ll mess up your quarterback up. Why he’s DeMarcus Ware (+4.6) of course. Ware has become more and more a pure pass rusher over the years, and it works two fold. On one hand he’s not quite the consistent run defender he once was, and was unable to make any positive plays in the run game unless he was unblocked. But in the passing game? Well he was tremendous. One sack doesn’t tell the story, but nine further hurries (including one where Trent Williams had to tackle him to prevent a sack) do. What was interesting with how he beat Williams was how he did it. Five of his pressures came on Williams’ inside shoulder.
Last year, by virtue of an incredibly high run block ranking, Doug Free (-3.4) was our third ranked left tackle. This year? Let’s just say he’s got a long way to go. This wasn’t Free at his best, as he gave up two penalties and was fortunate not to give up a sack, because the play was erased from a penalty. Still, his biggest problems came in the run game. He never exerted any real dominance, and three times, he was beaten and gave up tackles for short gains. He’s meant to be the reliable one on the Cowboys’ offensive line, yet right now he’s almost as big a liability as Phil “I’ll snap when I want to” Costa (-2.4).
A Corner Turned?
It’s only one game, and he did drop what would have been a difficult interception, but could Dallas fans have watched Mike Jenkins (+2.0) find his 2009 form? Jenkins gave up a couple of first downs to Santana Moss, but other than that, he added a pass break to his dropped pass interception, and came up very nicely with 6:08 left in the game to make a tackle for a short gain. It’s the kind of play he wouldn’t have made last year, but he managed to wrap up Chris Cooley and didn’t allow any yards after the catch. If he can build on this game, then maybe he can get back on track to being the all-pro player he was in 2009.
● Can’t blame it on the receiver. The Redskins didn’t drop a single pass.
● How was Tony Romo when given time? 77.3% of his passes were complete. How was Tony Romo when pressured? 35.7% of his passes were completed, with an interception to boot.
● After forcing one missed tackle and picking up 2.2 yards after contact, Tim Hightower scored a feeble 11.7 in our Elusive Rating this week. Roy Helu managed a 22.9 for what it’s worth.
PFF Game Ball:
DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys
Anthony Spencer may have caused the game sealing fumble, but it was the continual presence and pressure brought by Ware that stopped the Redskins getting into a rhythm on offense. A 10 total pressure day is pretty good.