The Fifth Quarter: Dallas Cowboys I
Simply put, there is nothing worse than losing to the Dallas Cowboys.
Yet, this week, it is hard not to have quite a bit of pride over how the Washington Redskins performed. This loss, even though it was to Dallas and even though it is still a loss, sits better than perhaps two or three of the wins Washington has had this year. Even with a banged-up offensive line, even with a depleted receiving core, and even with an ailing secondary, we saw Jason Campbell looking sharp and an offense that is really beginning to click.
On to the Fifth Quarter rankings, which are based on a scale of 1 to 5 Quarters:
What a remarkable performance from a unit that has struggled for the majority of the season. Santana Moss looked like his 2005 self again; Chris Cooley made some great catches in traffic; Keenan McCardell made us all ponder what it would have been like had he been a Redskin over the last sixteen years; Randle El was ... well, Randle El. The four receivers just mentioned each had more than 50 yards in receptions, and Moss lead the way with 121 yards and a touchdown.
Jason Campbell had a career day, moving the offense with his arm and nearly constructing a last-minute comeback victory. In his young career, Campbell had never thrown more than 38 attempts in a single game—he had 54 on Sunday. With 348 yards in the air, Campbell bested his previous career performance by exactly 100 yards.
Pass protection was about average for this year's devastated offensive line. (And, on that note, Stephon Heyer had to come in for an ailing Todd Wade.) Chris Samuels had a tough time containing DeMarcus Ware, who registered one sack with a forced fumble and put consistent pressure on the quarterback all afternoon. The Cowboys didn't blitz excessively, but the protection schemes handled it well whenever they did.
The passing offense's only moment of weakness came at an unfortunate time, with Jason Campbell making an ill-advised pass that was intercepted on the ten-yard line with a little less than two minutes left in the game.
Rushing offense? Today's game centered on passing, even when the Redskins weren't behind. What few carries Clinton Portis did get (twelve) were uneventful, as he averaged three yards and had a long run of six. In fact, the rushing game contributed very little to the production of the offense as a whole. Only four first downs came on running plays, and three of those happened before the 12-minute mark in the second quarter.
Betts has seen less time each week and appears to come in only when Portis needs a breather, not as a viable piece of a two-back threat.
Sean Taylor was missed badly on Sunday. Before he exited the game a week ago against the Philadelphia Eagles, no team that the Redskins had faced had completed a deep pass down the middle. Terrell Owens found a niche between the cornerbacks and safeties, gouging the Redskins for an astounding 173 yards and four touchdowns. The connection between Tony Romo and Terrell Owens is what killed the Skins, as they kept every other receiver to modest gains and stuffed the Cowboys' rushing attack.
Marcus Washington looked energized, having finally put his hamstring injury behind him, and ended the game with six tackles (all solo). London Fletcher made his presence known in between the tackles, registering seven tackles and helping keep the Cowboys to only 72 rushing yards on the day. Fletcher also had an interception; and Rocky McIntosh had his first interception as a pro that was, rather unjustly, ruled an incomplete pass upon review.
Once again, the front-four defensive linemen couldn't generate pressure. Blitzes, as well as bringing Marcus Washington into a defensive end position, helped to hurry Romo on several occasions, but it resulted in only one sack.
Of course, the defensive performance needs to be kept in perspective. Dallas had the number one offense in the NFC coming into this game, and this unit — even without their best player — really helped to keep the Redskins in it until the very end.
Shaun Suisham missed a 50-yard field goal but hit three others, including one from 45 yards out, and his kickoffs were deeper than they have been for weeks. Dallas' kick returner, Miles Austin, ran very well and managed to run back for 28, 25, and 22 yards. Rock Cartwright put in another solid week, with returns of 36, 29, 28, 27, and 25 yards. The man is a beast.
Derrick Frost saw only two punting opportunities, but he made good use of them: kicking one for 49 yards, after which the team benefited from a block in the back penalty, and using the other to pin Dallas on their own ten-yard line.
Sunday was an extremely well-fought battle, with about as honorable a loss as is possible when it comes to a division rivalry. Dallas kept us from stealing this one, but fortunately the Washington Redskins will face them in the last game of the season this year, and perhaps with a playoff spot hanging in the balance.
This article was released on 2007-11-19.
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