NFC East: Redskins-Cowboys

Westbrook banged up -- again

October, 6, 2008
10/06/08
5:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Westbrook
Westbrook

Eagles running back Brian Westbrook suffered two broken ribs in Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Redskins and coach Andy Reid doesn't know if he'll be ready for the 49ers. I think the Eagles can take care of San Francisco without Westbrook, but then, I thought the same thing about the Bears a couple of weeks ago.

Reid doesn't want to use this as an excuse, but the team is struggling without Shawn Andrews (back) at right guard. I think it would give the team a big lift to get him back.

Westbrook looked superb on the first drive of the game, but he hurt his ribs soon after. I may be in the minority, but I still think the Eagles could string four or five victories together. The problem, though, is that the Redskins should be 7-1 at the midway point. I think the Giants will be no worse than 7-1 and the Cowboys will be 6-2. That means the Eagles have already lost their margin of error. At some point, Donovan McNabb has to stop talking about how great this team is and actually take it to the field.

On Sunday, the Eagles didn't look like they belonged on the same field with the Redskins through the final three quarters. That needs to stop immediately.

 
Ron Jaworski talks about what the Eagles need to do to make up for the loss of Westbrook.

Campbell breaks Redskins record

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
2:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- In the first half, quarterback Jason Campbell broke the Redskins' all-time record for most consecutive passes without an interception. Joe Theismann previously held the record with 161 passes in 1983.

Dating back to last season, Campbell has now gone 166 passes without an interception. The Redskins have weathered a slow start and are now driving on the Eagles at the start of the second half.

Audio: Cooley talks Cowboys-Redskins

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
5:34
PM ET

Washington tight end Chris Cooley stopped by the the "Scott Van Pelt Show" and weighed in on the rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins.

The Zorn Identity

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
1:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

If I could just convince Redskins tight end Chris Cooley to tone down his language a bit on his fantastic blog, The Cooley Zone, we might feature him every day. His entry on the Cowboys game was priceless Monday. He gave coach Jim Zorn (Z) a lot of credit for his pep talks leading up to the game:

"The night before the game we talked about two things," said Cooley. "The first point was that it was going to take an unbelievable effort by everyone to win the game. Z talked about 'jumping off.' He's reading a book about Kit Carson and his trip from Missouri to New Mexico in the early 1800s. When someone decided to leave Missouri for further west they were jumping off.

"This was crazy dangerous and took a huge leap of faith and commitment. I know it sounds way corny and it did to us the night before the game, but if you think about it, it was relevant to our situation. Jump off to beat the Cowboys. Maybe Z is the pep talk expert. I mean, before the New Orleans game the topic was 'be excellent.' A line from George Carlin in 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.'

"The second thing we said is that when we get back in the locker room after the game, we will know we could have won the game. Whether we won or not, we knew that the Cowboys were a team we could beat. Obviously, winning was a much better option for us."

How good is that? I'll try to remember to ask Redskins P.R. chief Zack Bolno which Kit Carson book Zorn was reading, but I think it's this one. It's interesting that a coach at the professional level puts so much thought into inspirational messages. I know Tom Coughlin loves talking to his players about books he's reading. I know he was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Abe Lincoln when he arrived in Albany for training camp.

Not sure if Tom saw "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," though. In one of the first speeches he gave during training camp, Zorn pulled down his jeans and told players how he didn't appreciate the "sag" look.

Jason Campbell told me that Zorn had players rolling in the aisles during his fashion talk. Zorn also went to the trouble of learning all the name brand jeans his players were wearing.

Of course, none of this works if you go out and lose games. But Zorn's willingness to show his human side has helped make this a relatively smooth transition.

Joe Gibbs is great and all, but I'm not sure he ever eased down his designer jeans to demonstrate the "sag" look.

We have our own TV show

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
8:02
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

In case you're having a really slow evening, I wanted to announce that a TV segment called "Bloggers Blitz" will debut on ESPN News at 8:15 p.m. ET tonight. I've been asked to keep my answers brief, which isn't a strength of mine.

Take a quick break from "Monday Night Football Countdown" and check out the show. Wait, can I say that?

Actually, try to watch both shows at once while watching ESPN2. Thanks for your continued support during these difficult times.

Cowboys put on a brave face Monday

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
7:49
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- To their credit, several Cowboys defenders emerged from a darkened film room Monday to face the music a day after being dominated by the Redskins' offense in a 26-24 loss to the Redskins. The offense's only representatives were wide receiver Patrick Crayton and right guard Leonard Davis.

A pack of reporters surrounded defensive end Greg Ellis' locker before racing over to visit with the club's defender of the star, Tank Johnson (this position was formerly held by George Teague). Later, linebacker Bradie James found the one positive from Sunday's loss.

"This alleviated us from going 16-0," he joked.

That's right, folks. We've found a silver lining for the Cowboys. They won't have to endure the pressure that comes with winning games week after week. Why not mix in a miserable effort every now and then?

My first stop was defensive end Marcus Spears' locker. He seemed to have a healthy sense of perspective following Sunday's loss.

"The thing is, we know we can play," he said. "This is not something that's going to devastate us. It doesn't feel good at all, though. If they had've scored all their points on three big plays, you could kind of deal with it."

More than anything, the players sounded embarrassed about getting gashed in the running game. And the too-many-players-on-the-field penalty in the fourth quarter also stung.

"We have so many personnel changes that guys just got mixed up," Spears said. "We have to nullify that immediately."

Defensive end Jason Hatcher said the Redskins did a great job of starting running plays to the right, and then finding seams on the left side. I didn't point out the fact that they've been doing that for years. Hatcher, a very underrated player on the team, talked about how "slithery" Portis was, and how he does a great job of staying low and running through tackles.

Johnson made some valid points, but his beef with Rock Cartwright's alleged "Dancing on the Star" is laughable. Tank, how 'bout you make at least one tackle in the game before calling an opposing player "classless" for having the audacity to stand on the star and gaze through the roof. Could this perceived slight have something to do with the star's proximity to the line of scrimmage on the Redskins' final possession? Wait, don't answer that.

James was the most animated player in the locker room. He talked about how much better it is to lose a game in September rather than one in January, a month that hasn't been particularly kind to the Cowboys. When a reporter fed him a line about taking the season in quarters, he talked about how the Cowboys could end up with a 12-4 record.

"I'll take that any day," he said.

The best news for Cowboys fans right now? The Redskins only show up once more on the schedule.

Tank's between Rock and a hard place

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
3:38
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
CartwrightJohnson

IRVING, Texas -- Just returned from Valley Ranch, where most Cowboys players remained in hiding following Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Redskins. Since I didn't have a chance to visit with defensive tackle Tank Johnson on Sunday, I asked about his postgame altercation with Redskins running back Rock Cartwright.

Johnson spotted Cartwright standing on the Cowboys star at midfield and gazing through the hole in the roof at Texas Stadium. He interpreted this to be a mocking gesture.

"You gotta be a man," Johnson said Monday. "Don't stand and disrespect our field. Don't disrespect our house. We have a lot more class than that. We'd never do that in their house. I thought it was classless. I know you weren't favored to beat us, but don't act like you just won a Super Bowl. It was just childish."

Cartwright admitted that he was talking trash after the game, but said he wasn't trying to disrespect the star. Could it be that the Redskins had the ball at midfield, and Cartwright was forced to line up on the star?

No matter what happened, it's embarrassing that Johnson was so focused on something that had absolutely nothing to do with the final outcome. He also said that the Redskins' offensive line didn't push the Cowboys around Sunday.

"It was more us than them," he said.

Huh? Guess I didn't see it that way.

Knee-jerk Monday in the NFC East

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
11:59
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys

Eagles

Redskins

  • Thomas Boswell pays tribute to Redskins head coach Jim Zorn in the Washington Post. I need someone from Washington to explain to me, though, why Boswell kept asking Zorn why he looked so comfortable on the sideline. He even praised him for standing in the right place all the time. Don't we sort of have an expectation that coaches will know where to stand during games?

The 12th man comes to Dallas

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
10:36
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- Unfortunately, there are (misguided) Cowboys fans across the nation this morning attempting to blame Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Redskins on an illegal participation penalty with 6:58 left in the game.

Apparently it didn't strike safety Pat Watkins odd that he was standing next to the man who replaces him in short-yardage situations, and the Cowboys were flagged for having 12 men on the field. Coach Wade Phillips grabbed for his red flag and threatened to challenge -- until he realized the officials were correct.

"I can't understand how two players playing the position could be standing out there," said a befuddled Phillips. "I can't fathom that."

If the Cowboys had managed to stop the Redskins with the traditional 11 on that play, Shaun Suisham would've attempted a 49-yard field goal. There's no guarantee he misses from that distance, but it would've made it more challenging than the 29-yarder he eventually made. But as Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News points out this morning, it's not fair to make Watkins the goat in this loss. He simply had too much company.

And the play I haven't written enough about was the Chris Horton interception late in the third quarter. The rookie safety has become one of the Redskins' top playmakers. The Cowboys trailed 20-17 when quarterback Tony Romo attempted to throw a 10-yard out to Miles Austin. Horton had gotten caught too far inside on the play, but when he saw Romo looking toward Austin, he took off in a dead sprint. He intercepted the pass and the Redskins soon kicked a field goal to make it 23-17.

The Redskins didn't want to rush Horton, a seventh-round draft pick out of UCLA, but he hasn't really cooperated. He's forced his way into the starting lineup. Now, he's emerging as one of the defense's best players.

Redskins leave Texas Stadium with a fond memory

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
11:34
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- Barring a playoff meeting, the Washington Redskins made their final visit to Texas Stadium on Sunday. And after a 26-24 victory that doesn't even begin to tell the story, they pretty much left the Cowboys' defense in ruin.

 
 AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
 QB Jason Campbell led the Washington Redskins to a memorable win over the division rival Cowboys.

Make no mistake. Sunday's win bore no resemblance to a fluke. The Redskins didn't steal a game from the team alleged to be the best in football. They walked in the front door and pushed around the Sultans of September in front of their home crowd.

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell said he ran onto the field after the game in search of his counterpart, Tony Romo. Like most of his teammates, though, Romo had sounded the retreat.

It started in the second quarter and lasted throughout the rest of the game. The Cowboys' frantic comeback attempt only dolled up the final score.

Campbell was characteristically understated after the game, but what he did in the first half suggests that he's on his way to joining the upper echelon of quarterbacks in this league.

Facing a defense that was obsessed with not letting wide receiver Santana Moss catch a deep ball, Campbell calmly took what was given to him. But when Cowboys Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman bit on a stop-and-go route late in the first half, Campbell deftly stepped away from trouble and winged a 53-yard completion to Moss.

When I approached his locker after the game, Campbell was actually upset about the play. He felt like he robbed Moss of a record-setting touchdown by not hitting him in stride. Moss, who finished with eight catches for 145 yards, had tied the team record last week with touchdowns in six consecutive games.

"I wanted to get that for him," said a dejected looking Campbell. "That's the first thing I did was go apologize to him."

Redskins coach Jim Zorn said he led three "Redskins cheers" in the locker room before meeting with reporters. The biggest reason Daniel Snyder hired him as coach was his belief that he could take Campbell to a Pro Bowl level. That's why he quickly hired himself as quarterbacks coach.

When the offense looked awful in the season opener against the Giants, Zorn asked Campbell to trust him. That's when Campbell shot back, "You need to trust me too."

After the game, Zorn sounded like a proud teacher.

"He didn't have any of the ups and downs, these sways of emotion," Zorn said of Campbell. "What I always talk to him about is bearing down and what I mean by that is if you grit your teeth to get through difficult situations, you must [get through it]. We were fortunate enough to beat a great football team, but part of that was his concentration level and he just kept it up the whole game."

Zorn felt the sting of criticism after the Giants loss. He thought it was important for his team not to see him "flinch." And even when star running back Clinton Portis complained that week about the offensive line and the play-calling, Zorn didn't take the bait.

Now, he's reaping some of the rewards a lot sooner than most of us thought. And at least for one day, the Redskins looked like the team to beat in the NFC East. Or maybe the Cowboys are simply overrated.

Now, join me for several items that didn't really belong in the previous 700 words:

Did the Cowboys' obsession with T.O. backfire on them?

First of all, let's give the Redskins' secondary its proper due. In the first half, cornerback Shawn Springs jammed Terrell Owens at the line of scrimmage and pretty much took him out of the game. T.O. finished with only two catches for 11 yards, which may have caused offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to overcompensate in the second half.

After all, Patrick Crayton and Jason Witten combined for nine catches, 110 yards and a touchdown in the first half. On the first drive of the second half, Romo completed three passes to T.O., the third going for a 10-yard touchdown. Romo ended up throwing to T.O. six times in the third quarter and five more in the fourth quarter.

The most telling drive came right after the Redskins took a 23-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Redskins broke up three consecutive passes to T.O., the last two by Carlos Rogers, who was covering him because Springs left the game with a calf strain.

Of the Cowboys' 58 offensive plays, they either threw or handed the ball to T.O. 19 times. In my mind, that smacks of a team trying too hard to make one player happy. In the first half, he appeared to give up on a few routes when he knew the ball wasn't coming his way. It was pretty obvious that Springs was frustrating him.

After the game, a Cowboys starter on offense said he thought the team tried too hard to involve T.O. in the second half. It's not good when a player senses that coaches are calling plays in order to keep a teammate happy. It's not time to panic if you're a Cowboys fan, but I'd certainly keep your eye on that situation. It's a slap in the face to Witten, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin -- and especially rookie Felix Jones to freeze them out in order to please T.O.

At least the Cowboys shut down one running back

If there's someone who can make sense of Wade Phillips' justification for not giving rookie running back Felix Jones a single carry Sunday, please contact me immediately.
"He has a specific role that he plays," Phillips said of Jones. "The plays that he works on, they aren't really come-from-behind plays. They are more normal game situation plays. We will be more and more comfortable with him as he learns more."
After Sunday's performance, I'm thinking Wade might want to add a few more "come-from-behind" plays.

Sentimental day for Springs

Playing in Texas Stadium for the final time probably meant more to Shaw
n Springs than any player on the field. He remembers spending Sundays at the stadium watching his father, Ron, play fullback for the Cowboys.

Springs told me after the game that he opened up the Dallas Morning News today and saw a picture of Roger Staubach being lifted into the air after the Cowboys' 35-34 comeback victory over the Redskins on Dec. 16, 1979.

"You know who was picking him up?" Springs asked. "That was my father."

Ron Springs remains in a coma in a local hospital following complications from a surgery to remove a cyst last year.

Postgame altercation

Redskins running back Rock Cartwright said he and Cowboys defensive tackle Tank Johnson had spent much of the evening jawing back and forth. But as the Redskins were kneeling on the ball at the end of the game, Cartwright said he stood at midfield and gazed through the iconic hole in the roof of Texas Stadium.

Johnson, who's is his second year with the Cowboys, apparently thought Cartwright was attempting to evoke memories of T.O. standing on the star several years ago as a 49er. After the final snap, Johnson raced over and shouted, "Don't disrespect the star."

I'm thinking Johnson may have more important things to deal with after his defense gave up 161 rushing yards. Some of you might recall Phillips saying recently that "no one runs on the Dallas Cowboys."

Well, make that almost no one.

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 26, Cowboys 24

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
7:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- In what was probably their last visit to Texas Stadium, the Washington Redskins provided the Cowboys with another painful memory Sunday. Tony Romo is considered one of the league's premier young passers, but on this day, it was Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell who led his team to a 26-24 victory in front of a stunned crowd.

Campbell overwhelmed the Cowboys in the first half by completing 20 of 31 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys focused on slowing down Santana Moss, who has torched them in the past. But the strategy backfired. Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman was burned for two touchdowns and a 53-yard pass to Moss. Campbell did an excellent job moving around in the pocket, and he put constant pressure on the Cowboys' defense.

In the second half, the Redskins gashed the Cowboys with their running game. All the misdirection plays the Redskins tried early opened the way for running back Clinton Portis to have a huge second half. Coach Wade Phillips has said "no one runs on the Dallas Cowboys," but that wasn't accurate Sunday.

Late in the game, the Cowboys' defense appeared winded. The Redskins' defense kept Romo in check through much of the afternoon, and then rookie safety Chris Horton picked him off to set up a Redskins field goal that put them up, 23-17.

The Cowboys were considered to be the best team in the league coming into this game, but after scoring the game's first touchdown, the Redskins kept them on their heels.

Springs remains on sideline

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
6:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs has sat out the past three defensive series with what appears to be an injury to his right calf. Carlos Rogers has taken over covering T.O., but he's hung in there pretty well.

Not sure why we're not seeing more of a sense of urgency from the Cowboys' offense right now. Makes no sense. Another nice play by Rogers on a deep out to T.O. Make that two plays.

Starting to think the Redskins might actually win this thing. I have no clue why the Cowboys seem disinterested right now.

If the Redskins lose this game...

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
6:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- They are going to regret having to settle for field goals inside the red zone. Washington has struggled in the red zone in the past. And it's a place the Cowboys' defense has excelled.

As poor as the defense has been today, they've only allowed a couple of field goals in the second half. Could've been a lot worse result after that interception Romo threw.

Ellis leaves field with injury

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
6:33
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis had to be helped off the field a few moments ago. He'll be replaced by Anthony Spencer on the right side.

Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff just beat guard Randy Thomas badly on a running play. Not completely sure why that wasn't grounding on Jason Campbell. He may have been out of the pocket, but the ball didn't travel past the line of scrimmage.

Have to respect Redskins' running game

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
6:20
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys are so concerned about quarterback Jason Campbell and wide receiver Santana Moss that they forgot about respecting the run on the Redskins' first possession of the first half. The modified statue of liberty was a nice touch, and then the Redskins got the Cowboys to bite on a fake end around.

Great kick out block by Chris Cooley on DeMarcus Ware to spring the play, but Washington has to be disappointed with only getting three points. The Redskins had two touchdowns called back because of penalties. No excuse for center Casey Rabach being downfield on Randle El's touchdown.

The other penalty was a hold. Zorn and Campbell, two fairly mild-mannered guys were visibly upset on the sideline. It looks like the Cowboys have decided to make getting the ball to T.O. a priority in the second half. Not sure what took them so long. Maybe it was the fact that Shawn Springs was completely taking T.O. out of the game with solid jams at the line of scrimmage.

I prefer slow jams myself.

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