Sunday, October 13, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys
By Todd Archer
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 31-16 victory against the Washington Redskins.
What it means for the Cowboys: It might be too early in the season to say this was a must-win for the Cowboys, but coming off the disheartening 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos last week it really was.
Falling to 2-4 would have been devastating with back-to-back road games upcoming and the team in the midst of the first three-game losing streak of the Jason Garrett era.
This was by no means a masterpiece, but the Cowboys travel to face the Philadelphia Eagles with a 3-3 record and feeling a lot better about their team. The Cowboys are 2-0 in the division for the first time since 2007.
The special teams kick-started the victory with Dwayne Harris' punt return for a touchdown and the offense was able to take advantage of two short fields (set up by a Harris kick return and a Kyle Wilber fumble recovery) for two touchdowns.
The first touchdown was a thing of beauty from Tony Romo, who sidestepped a blitzing Josh Wilson and fired a pass to the corner for Terrance Williams. The second score was Joseph Randle's from 2 yards with 9:36 to play, but center Travis Frederick should get an assist for helping push the rookie running back across the goal line.
Stock watch: Rising -- Jason Hatcher. He was without DeMarcus Ware for most of the game, but he was simply a terror on the interior, giving the Redskins fits throughout. He had two sacks of Robert Griffin III to give him five on the season, which is a career high.
A special returner: Harris was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his three-tackle effort versus the New York Giants in Week 1. He could win his second honor of the season for his returns against the Redskins.
Harris had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Cowboys a 14-3 lead. His 90-yard kickoff return in the third quarter set up Williams’ 15-yard touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 21-9 lead.
It was the third kickoff return of at least 90 yards in franchise history that did not go for a touchdown.
Defense makes a stand: The Cowboys' D wasn’t perfect, but after allowing 1,023 yard and 81 points in the previous two games, it didn’t need to be perfect, though Dallas still allowed 416 yards.
The Cowboys allowed a 45-yard touchdown to Alfred Morris, but made him work for his yards. After allowing back-to-back 400-yard passing games, they kept Robert Griffin III in check for most of the game as well, limiting him to 246 yards.
Wilber came up with a sack/fumble of Griffin to set up the clinching touchdown, and Orlando Scandrick had a pick of Griffin in the end zone to end a fourth-quarter threat.
The defense even had three sacks after putting up one in the previous two games combined.
What’s next: The Cowboys travel to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Eagles. For defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin it will be a chance to show he can slow down Chip Kelly’s offense at the NFL level. He didn’t do it at Southern California. In three games against Oregon, Kiffin’s defense allowed an average of 601 yards and 50 points in losing two games. Last November the Trojans gave up 730 yards in a 62-51 loss.