Sunday, November 22, 2009
Late score sufficient for ugly offense
By Calvin Watkins
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was ugly. It wasn't worth watching.
But it was a win, and in this league, that's all that matters.
The Dallas Cowboys won a game in which their offense produced only three drives worth a darn the whole day against the Washington Redskins.
The Cowboys' defense played well all day, to the point that inside linebacker Bradie James figured that unit would need to score to win the game. But outside linebacker Anthony Spencer's interception off a batted ball sealed the ugly, distasteful 7-6 victory at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
"In 20 years, I don't think I've ever been a part of a win when we only score seven points," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "I told our defense and our special-teams guys that that was really something special. We turned the ball over and made some mistakes, so it was huge for our guys to step in there and make that last drive."
Jones' memory is pretty good. In October 2001, the Cowboys beat the Redskins 9-7 at Texas Stadium.
On Sunday, the Cowboys went 3-for-11 on third down, missed a 46-yard field goal, fumbled at the Redskins' 12 on the second drive of the game and still won.
"I don't care if it's ugly, pretty, so-so; as long as we get that W, that's all that counts at the end of the year," nose tackle Jay Ratliff said. "But at the same time, you realize the things you need to work on. That's one thing that's good about this team: We're always hungry and never satisfied. That's a good mentality to have."
And the Cowboys have plenty to worry about as they head to their annual Thanksgiving Day game, against the Oakland Raiders.
There's still something wrong with the offense. Quarterback Tony Romo didn't complete a pass to a wide receiver until 13 seconds remained in the third quarter. Roy Williams had no catches. The Cowboys, who rushed for 106 yards in the first half, produced only 13 in the third quarter.
Cornerback Terence Newman got into a sideline confrontation with secondary coach Dave Campo and had to be separated from him. You would have thought Terrell Owens was back in town.
The Redskins' offensive line schemed up the Cowboys' front three to the point that they kept six and sometimes seven blockers to protect quarterback Jason Campbell. The offensive linemen moved across the line of scrimmage to target the Cowboys' best linemen, mainly Ratliff and Stephen Bowen, who was also inside on pass situations to slow the pass rush.
Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said last week that Campbell was difficult to sack because he moves up and around the pocket. That's exactly what he did to avoid several sacks and complete 24 of 37 passes for 256 yards. Campbell was sacked only once.
But when the game needed a change of pace, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett went to the passing game. He set the offense in the shotgun formation, and it delivered. Romo found Patrick Crayton in the back of the end zone, on an ugly play that was kept alive when the wide receiver broke free from two defenders near the goal line. He caught a 10-yard touchdown pass that gave the Cowboys a one-point lead with 2:41 to play in the game.
Then it was time for the defense to close the show, like a good boxer does when his opponent is hurt. Bowen jumped up to tip a Campbell pass, and Spencer picked it off to close it with 1:46 left.
Now come the Raiders.
"The team, since that Kansas City game [a 26-20 overtime win on Oct. 11], I felt like we've been believing in each other since then," James said. "That was a big turnaround game, and this was another one we felt like no matter what, if we continued to play and give ourselves a chance, we've got a chance to win every game."
Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.