The Dallas Cowboys were victorious last night in our nation’s capital as they kept themselves very alive in the NFC East race with a quarter of the season to go.
The great Jimmy Johnson used to preach how there were three phases to the game: offense, defense, and special teams. You have to win them all… two out of three at the very worst.
The Cowboys haven’t been too potent on offense in the absence of Tony Romo, but the other 66% of the team did enough to carry them. Let’s discuss.
Second-year player DeMarcus Lawrence took the trip to DC with one intention in mind – play some good football. Tank Lawrence made an immediate impact as he had two sacks on the Redskins’ opening possession (the second one actually caused a fumble in the picture you see here… Washington recovered and punted on the next play). This set the tone early that the Cowboys defense was going to be in Kirk Cousins’ face all night.
Cowboys fans have been clamoring for Lawrence to break out all season long. With guys like Greg Hardy and Tyrone Crawford on the line drawing a lot of attention, Tank finally lived up to the hype that surrounded him when the Cowboys traded up (with the Redskins, coincidentally) to get him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Hardy and Crawford didn’t have big box score games, but as I alluded to… their presence was certainly felt. On the call Jon Gruden talked about the depth of this defensive line and how it allowed Rod Marinelli to continually send in waves of pressure. That’s exactly what happened.
The defensive line group totaled nine tackles and two sacks on the night, but they allowed other playmakers on the defense to get in the action as well. Fantastic game.
Overall Grade: B
Sean. Lee. Is. An. Animal.
This dude is just a statue to the position of linebacker. When he’s healthy and he’s grooving there is arguably nobody better on this planet at what he does.
The General was a mad man out there on Monday Night Football and seemed to always be around the football. He stole the show as far as the linebackers are concerned, but a lot of that is thanks to the presence of Rolando McClain in the middle.
We all dreamed about the possibilities of McClain in the middle with Lee at the weakside spot in the offseason. We finally got to see the potential that we knew was there all along.
Sean Lee picked up the second sack of his career during the game, but what he did is impossible to quantify. The Cowboys held the Redskins to 16 total points and 90% of that could be attributed to Lee’s play alone.
Overall Grade: A-
All throughout the last few seasons I’ve constantly told people that the key to being a great defense isn’t having an elite secondary.
Do you really think that the Legion of Boom is the best part about the Seahawks’ defense? Of course not.
When you get pressure in the quarterback’s face, the secondary gets better. It’s a simple, fundamental concept of football.
The big pressure generated by the defensive line and Sean Lee allowed the secondary to do just enough during this game. It’s disappointing that they didn’t generate any turnovers against Kirk Cousins, who is prone to many, but we’re in a grateful mood today!
It was very interesting to see how much Rod Marinelli continually sent Barry Church in to blitz. Church helped the first and second levels of the defense generate even more pressure on Cousins while Byron Jones, Morris Claiborne, and Brandon Carr held their own downfield.
The lone misstep of the secondary came when Morris Claiborne got burnt by DeSean Jackson for the game-tying score. In Mo’s defense DeSean was pretty fired up and he’s almost impossible to beat on that route. Still though, it was a pretty solid day at the office for this group.
Overall Grade: C+
Lucky Whitehead, ladies and gentlemen!
The “red-headed dread kid” was a fan favorite all the way back in Training Camp. He was thought to be the Dwayne Harris replacement with his shifty ability and supposed special teams prowess.
Lucky #13 had his finest day as a Dallas Cowboy in Washington. Believe it.
With 49 seconds to go and the game tied at 16, Whitehead returned the Dustin Hopkins kickoff 46 yards all the way to the Dallas 44. This gave the Cowboys incredible starting field position to set up a Dan Bailey field goal.
Overall Grade: A-
While Chris Jones should be considered the MVP here for recovering DeSean Jackson’s inexcusable fumble, there is one incredibly obvious choice here.
Dan Bailey should run for President.
I boldly predicted that Dan Bailey would have five successfully converted kicks in this game. #5 delivered his fifth when everything mattered most.
Bailey was 100% on kicks with three field goals and an extra point to his name when the Cowboys called on him for his biggest kick of the season.
14 seconds left in the game and a 54-yard field goal was the assignment. Dan Bailey, like always, delivered in heroic fashion.
Bailey gave the Cowboys their fourth win of the season and their biggest surge of momentum since the waning moments of the Week 1 victory over the Giants. His reliability is unmatched throughout the entire NFL. Dan freakin’ Bailey!
Overall Grade: A+