NFL Nation: Redskins-Cowboys
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.
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.
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
"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."
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.
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.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Another early-season division showdown. The Cowboys are heavily favored, but I don't see a blowout coming. After a dismal showing against the Giants on opening night, the Redskins have bounced back with wins against the Saints and Cardinals. Quarterback Jason Campbell seems to have found a rhythm within coach Jim Zorn's West Coast offense.
Campbell has great respect for Wade Phillips' defense, but he also knows he torched it last November in a 28-23 loss at Texas Stadium. Win or lose, we'll know a lot more about the Redskins after Sunday's game. Tight end Chris Cooley and wide receiver Santana Moss have both had huge games against the the Cowboys over the past three seasons. Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart wants to make sure Moss doesn't catch any deep balls.
The Redskins have a strong running game with Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, but their only hope against the Cowboys is through the air. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is hoping to cut down on some of his mistakes. He has turned the ball over in the end zone three times, and he can't do that against an opportunistic Redskins defense. Look for Redskins rookie safety Chris Horton to receive a lot of snaps this week. Washington loves what he brings to its defense.
There's a good chance the Eagles will be playing without three key starters on offense. Brian Westbrook (ankle) is questionable, but the fact that he didn't practice at all this week leads me to believe he'll sit this one out. Westbrook's backups, Correll Buckhalter and Lorenzo Booker, have to be ready to go.
The Eagles could also be without tight end L.J. Smith (back) and right guard Shawn Andrews (back). At even strength, this is a game the Eagles should win, but in my book, it's a pick'em if Westbrook doesn't play. Donovan McNabb (chest) will have plenty of weapons at receiver, but the line has to do a good job of protecting him for the Eagles to win.
Remember the defensive game plan against the Steelers? I'd do the same thing. Try to slow down running back Matt Forte early, and then put the game in Kyle Orton's hands. I don't think they'll sack him eight times as they did Ben Roethlisberger, but he'll go down four or five times. This is a game that Jim Johnson's defense needs to win, and I think they'll be up to the task.
|Diamond Images/Getty Images|
|Defensive end Jason Taylor will miss Sunday's game against the Cowboys.|
The Redskins traded for veteran defensive end Jason Taylor for days just like this Sunday against the Cowboys. When Philip Daniels went down with a season-ending knee injury in training camp, Redskins executive vice president Vinny Cerrato quickly worked a deal with the Dolphins.
Now, Taylor's streak of playing in 133 consecutive games will come to an end because of a medical procedure on his leg Monday. Taylor was kicked in the shin against the Cardinals. The injury couldn't have happened at a worse time. After looking like a non-factor in the Redskins' first two games, Taylor played well against Kurt Warner and applied plenty of pressure. [Updated: I tried to give Taylor a sack in the game, but his one sack of the season actually came against the Saints]
The Eagles, Browns and Packers haven't been able to get pressure on Romo, and he's burned them all with long passes. Taylor's absence will force defensive coordinator Greg Blache to blitz more Sunday, and that's not the strength of the Redskins' defense.
This is not a secondary that forces a lot of coverage sacks. To this point, I think Taylor has looked pretty uncomfortable at times in Blache's scheme. When he's able to return, Blache needs to do a better job of moving him around and finding the best matchups. He's not particularly strong against the run, and that's where teams such as the Giants and Cowboys flourish. He's definitely made a move over the past couple of weeks, but he's not the dominant player the Redskins hoped he'd be.
Seventh-year defensive end Demetric Evans will replace Taylor. I think Evans will have a big game. He played for the Cowboys early in his career, and he loves playing against them. I talked to him last season about his time in Dallas, and he said he begins every season by circling those dates on the schedule. I know some of you (many) think I'm nuts, but it really wouldn't surprise me if Evans has a big game. Now in his fifth year with the Redskins, Evans has a 8 1/2 career sacks with the club.