The Fifth Quarter: Farewell Texas Stadium
Posted: Sep 29 2008
By Scott Hurrey
Once again, the Washington Redskins silenced the critics winning the "unwinnable" against the "best team in football" in their house, something they were told all week they had no chance to do. The Redskins downed the Dallas Cowboys in their final visit to Texas Stadium, 26-24.
Santana Moss continued his dominance against the rival Cowboys with 8 catches for 145 yards. He never found pay dirt, although at least once and probably twice, a better throw would have put him in the end zone. That's not to say the Jason Campbell had a bad game. Those throws were under duress, and Campbell showed the poise and leadership that Joe Gibbs and Vinny Cerrato liked enough to trade a boatload of picks to move up in the draft to select him. His 20-for-31, 231-yard performance was enough for a 108.4 passer rating, and his two touchdowns -- one to unlikely hero James Thrash and one to Antwaan Randle-El -- were enough to get the job done against a tough Dallas defense. The pass blocking was very good.
Once. That's how many times Clinton Portis has eclipsed the 100-yard mark at Texas Stadium. That one time was last night. Portis was outstanding, as were the reunited right side of the offensive line with Jon Jansen replacing the injured Stephon Heyer. By the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Dallas front seven wanted no part of Portis, Mike Sellers or the offensive line, as Portis and Betts combined for 54 yards rushing in the fourth quarter, accounting for 9:07 of the 15 minutes, just over 60%. In a game where the Redskins dominated the time of possession by more than 16 minutes, that is pretty significant.
The defense was outstanding. Chris Horton added another pick, adding to his growing reputation as a ball hawk and a playmaker. He also continued to play physical ball, and looks to be really catching on to the defense as a whole. He still has a way to go, but he's getting there fast. It wasn't just Horton, though. The entire secondary really stepped up to the plate against a team with one of the most potent passing attacks in the game. Shawn Springs beat up on T.O. at every opportunity. Carlos Rogers played his normal physical game and Smoot played with heart. This freed up the rest of the defense to really shutdown Marion Barber. While it wasn't as good as holding Barber to 1 yard like last year, 26 yards is pretty darn good.
The punting was pretty good. Durant Brooks seems to be settling in well. He only punted 4 times, but two of them pinned the Cowboys inside the 20-yard line, and he boomed a 60-yarder when called upon. In addition, his holding on field goals has improved ten-fold. That contributed to Shaun Suisham's 4-for-4 day, giving the Redskins points when they really needed them to stave off the Cowboy attack. While 4 touchdowns would have been better, the team really needs those points when they can't punch it in, and Suisham showed up today.
As for punt returns, Antwaan Randle-El has a decent game, averaging just over 10 yards per return on his 4 attempts, while their counterparts on punt coverage held Pacman Jones to a paltry 4.7-yards per return. Rock Cartwright continued to play well in his role as kick returner, gaining 71 yards on just three run-backs, including a 30-yard scamper. His 23.7-yard average was more than 10 yards per return better than his counterpart Felix Jones, whom the Redskins kick coverage unit held to 54 yards on 4 attempts.
Jim Zorn continues to establish himself as an outstanding play caller. When you think run, he passes. When you think pass, he runs it. But above and beyond that is the work he's done with Jason Campbell. Few doubted the raw tools that Campbell brings to the table, but the confidence and poise with which he has played in these last three games (the first three-game winning streak of his NFL career) can be attributed directly to the work he and Zorn have put in together. Campbell seemed to always be worried about making a mistake, but Zorn has instilled the tools and confidence in the young signal caller to allow him to stop worrying about mistakes and start worrying about making a quick decision and then making a play. On the other side of the ball, Greg Blache had the defense fired up and ready to go against the vaunted Cowboys offense, and as a result, Dallas had its worst offensive performance of the season.
Unfortunately for the Skins, they've got another tough one next weekend in the Philadelphia Eagles. They are coming off a tough loss against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football and will be fired up, hungry and looking to avenge themselves at the Redskins' expense. A big x-factor will be the health of perennial all-pro running back Brian Westbrook. The good news for the Skins is that with this week's win, they will be either 4-1 or 3-2 going into a more palatable portion of their schedule, when they will take on the hapless Rams, the struggling Browns (both at home) and then travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. Here's hoping the Redskins continue to play with the chip on their shoulder that they are playing with now.