IRVING, Texas – Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III stole the show with his four-touchdown performance against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
He made one poor decision and it resulted in an interception, but he had an answer for everything defensive coordinator Rob Ryan threw at him.
Ryan brought five guys seven times and Griffin completed six passes, including three that went for touchdowns. When the Cowboys chose to go with four-man pressure, Griffin was 12 of 17 but he was also sacked four times. Griffin went 2 of 4 against three-man pressures, including a check down to Leonard Hankerson, who slipped away from Danny McCray for a 12-yard gain late in the fourth quarter.
It was not McCray’s finest hour. On the 68-yrd touchdown to Aldrick Robinson, McCray was flat-footed on the play-action fake and Robinson ran right by him.
It was not Brandon Carr’s finest hour either, especially in the first half. On Robinson’s touchdown, Carr played off coverage and dropped 7 yards before the ball was snapped, giving Robinson a free run. He had no chance in catching up. On the 59-yard TD to Pierre Garcon, Carr, who was playing safety for his first snap of the game, slipped as he closed on the crossing route and Garcon was off to the races. Carr set up Alfred Morris’s touchdown run with a pass interference penalty in the end zone. With no help to the inside he allowed Hankerson to cross his face at the snap and get position, leading to the penalty on the Griffin throw. He was also beaten for Santana Moss for a 6-yard touchdown after turning the wrong way.
The Cowboys paid an awful lot to get Carr and Morris Claiborne. They liked their press coverage ability. They liked it so much vs. the Redskins that the Cowboys played across-the-board press only nine times, eight in the second half. Why? Is Ryan so worried about the safety play that he doesn’t want to expose his corners? Let these guys play aggressively at the line and win some battles.
The Cowboys lined up in off coverage 28 times and played half-press 24 times.
But let’s get to something that was overlooked because of Griffin’s masterpiece. The run defense was awful. The Redskins opened the game by trying to run wide but were thwarted by DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, so they adjusted to running between the tackles. The Cowboys defensive line could not get off blocks. Josh Brent lost too many battles and had his shoulders turned sideways to free up lanes for blockers to get on the linebackers. Same goes for defensive ends Tyrone Crawford and Marcus Spears.
The Cowboys did a good job against the read option, but Spencer and Ware both bit in the second half that led to good runs by Griffin.
On offense, the story was the same as it’s been all year. They couldn’t run the ball.
Felix Jones should be praised for his toughness, but there comes a point where he’s just not effective enough. On a few plays – which are big when you have nine run calls – Jones was just unable to get to the hole. If he did, larger runs were there.
Washington came after Tony Romo in the first half. They brought five-man pressure on 15 of Romo’s 21 throws and the line and backs did a good job handling it. Same with the wide receivers. On one five-man pressure Romo chose to hit Dez Bryant underneath for a first down when he had Cole Beasley open for a touchdown with both Washington defenders jumping Bryant. But there was no way Romo could find Beasley with the pressure coming at him.
In the second half, the Redskins relied mostly on a four-man rush, doing it 30 times and producing one sack. With such a big lead, they decided to sit back more. Bit when the Cowboys got down to the red zone late in the fourth quarter defensive coordinator Jim Haslett brought six-man pressure on three straight plays. The final time it burned him with Romo hooking up with a back shoulder throw to Bryant for a touchdown.
Dwayne Harris did a nice job of sealing Bryant’s 85-yard touchdown in the third quarter with a key downfield block. Bryant, however, did not return the favor on a 36-yard gain by Harris, allowing Josh Wilson to come from behind for a tackle. Harris might not have scored, but Bryant could have done more to help there.