ReFo: Redskins @ Cowboys, Week 6
After falling just short of toppling the undefeated Denver Broncos, Dallas faced a second home game in as many weeks, this time hosting divisional foe Washington. We should have known it would go the Cowboys’ way because a win would return them back to .500, their default record in recent seasons.
That’s exactly the way it ended up, with Dallas just proving too strong for Washington and crucially keeping hold of the ball better, winning the turnover battle to emerge 31-16.
In a game where neither quarterback shone, it was, in truth, the special teams that made the difference for the Cowboys, with Dwayne Harris breaking a pair of big returns – one for a score and one to set up another – that gave Dallas the advantage they held onto.
But let’s take a look at the individual performances.
Washington — Three Performances of Note
Trouble of the Guard
The Washington offense had plenty of problems in the game, and in particular the guard play was extremely poor from both Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger. Chester’s problems came exclusively in pass protection. He actually earned a positive +1.1 grade for his run blocking, but seven pressures and a penalty went some way to explaining his massive -6.6 as a pass protector. Lichtensteiger’s -1.7 grade was more evenly split between his pass protection and run blocking, surrendering a sack and two hurries but also being beaten by the Dallas defense in the run game on too many occasions. With the other three-fifths of the O-line actually grading pretty well, the Redskins’ offense could have been even better with the ball on the ground — firmly in 2012 form rushing the football — if their guards had only been able to match them.
The Woes of RGIII
We all know about the injury Robert Griffin (-4.6) is coming back from, and in truth he looked pretty mobile in this game – perhaps not back to his rookie best, but far from the hobbled player we saw end the last season and to begin this one. The worrying thing then is what has become of his passing. His completion percentage in this game speaks for itself, but only one of those passes was thrown away with three drops and one where he was hit as he threw to paint a pretty ugly picture of his overall accuracy. He missed routine passes that he was hitting without thought in 2012 and it’s those passes that the Redskins need to be able to hit consistently if they are to succeed on offense and prevent teams from clamping down on their run game.
The Source of Pass Rush
The Redskins D is a visibly tougher unit when Brian Orakpo (+3.1) is in there, and he is without doubt their best pass rusher. The team totaled just 16 pressures in this game, and five of them came from Orakpo, two more pressures than any other defender managed. Kerrigan for his part on the other side is usually more effective acting as a foil for Orakpo rather than the main source of rush, and he added a trio of hurries from his side while the other big factor in rush came from the unusual source of cornerback Josh Wilson. Wilson notched three hurries from four blitzes, forcing Tony Romo into rushed throws and batting a pass that was intercepted from that tip.
Dallas — Three Performances of Note
Hatcher – the New Ratliff
I saw a tweet the other day from Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas that when he comes back Jay Ratliff should offer to swap paychecks with Jason Hatcher and on the current evidence, it’s not a bad idea. Hatcher has actually become an convincing Ratliff impressionist in his play, generating a consistent amount of pressure from his interior pass rush. In this game he had a pair of sacks and three more hurries on his way to a pretty monstrous +5.6 grade. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they lost DeMarcus Ware to a thigh injury in the game and George Selvie was unable to continue his fine form to start the season, leaving Hatcher operating somewhat on his own up front.
When you spend big on a cornerback you are doing so with an eye to games like this one from Brandon Carr (+4.8). He was thrown at a dozen times in the game, but allowed just four receptions for 55 yards, two of those to running backs out of the backfield. He was tasked with shutting down Pierre Garcon for the most part and Garcon was thrown at 10 times, but finished the game with just two receptions for 29 yards into Carr’s coverage. In fact, counting the three passes Carr broke up, he got his hands to the ball more often than Garcon was able to on those targets. When targeting Carr, RGIII’s passer rating was just 49.0. What will please Cowboys fans even more is that this was just marginally better than that when targeting much-maligned sophomore CB Morris Claiborne. He was thrown at six times but allowed just two catches for 32 yards while breaking up a pair of passes himself.
It’s somewhat typical of Tony Romo (-4.3), coming off a game in which he was practically flawless, except for the mistake that came at the most critical of times, he plummeted to an extremely poor grade in this game and could only come away with 170 passing yards having put up over 500 the week before. The worst part about the performance is that it was no better when there was no pressure to speak of. Normally, a player’s numbers drop significantly when under pressure, but Romo was simply poor across the board, pressure or no, blitz or no in this game. Though he was slightly unlucky on his interception – in that it was a batted pass that landed in the hands of a linebacker – he had a clear line of sight to the unblocked blitzing defensive back and made no adjustments at all for the fact he was right in the throwing lane, throwing it right to him and putting his fate in Wilson’s hands.
– Dwayne Harris had returns of 90-yards and 86-yards in this game, scoring on a punt return and coming close to doing likewise on a kick return.
– Because of Harris’ returns, Punter Sav Rocca had a net average of 10.7 yards per punt.
– Demarco Murray started the game well before pulling up injured, averaging 4.1 yards per carry from his seven rushes. His replacements combined for 19 yards on 12 carries afterward.
PFF Game Ball
It’s a close run thing between Carr and Hatcher, but because Hatcher was the only member of that Dallas defensive line standing out, he gets the Game Ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam