What Did We Learn From Redskins Win Over Cowboys?
by Trevor Whenham - 10/03/2008
The NFC East is giving me a serious headache. It is very hard to handicap a division where all of the teams are competitive, and all four teams here have the right stuff to not only make the playoffs, but to be decent when they get there. The biggest problem they face, though, is that they are all going to beat each other up on the way to the playoffs. It's divisional cannibalism.
Last weekend did nothing to clarify he picture. Dallas was fairly widely viewed as the top team in the league. If you had seen the Redskins in their first game against you would have thought that the Rams would have an edge on them this year. But then Washington improved every time out, and Dallas decided to entirely give up on the run that had brought them so much success, and Washington won as 11.5-point underdogs (a ridiculous number, by the way). That came after Dallas had beaten Philadelphia and seemed to be the class of the division, so now we really can't know for sure what we have.
So, as we go forward and try to figure out what to do from here, let's take a look back at what we learned from Washington's victory over Dallas that we can apply going forward.
1. Dallas' run offense - This is a bit of a mystery. Both Marion Barber and Felix Jones had been running very well coming into this game, but Jones only had eight touches, and Jones didn't have any. That's obviously not sustainable, but it's also not a mystery why it happened. Washington got off to a big start. By the middle of the second quarter they were up 17-7. Dallas didn't immediately have much success running against the front line of the Redskins, and they found themselves in a hole they had to dig out of. They couldn't afford to mess with trying to establish the run when they needed points, and they needed them immediately. They especially wouldn't have felt like they had the luxury of time because Jason Campbell was shredding the Dallas secondary. It's no coincidence, then, that Tony Romo threw 47 times in the game.
So, what do we take from this? Almost nothing. The offensive decisions were a result of circumstance, and Dallas isn't going to get themselves into that circumstance very often. They faltered early, and Washington didn't. If just one of those things had happened differently then it would have been very likely that Dallas would have rushed more, and no one would be talking about this. You can't think for a second that Dallas actually planned to ignore a part of their offense that was working so well. It just happened. Treating this as a trend or signs of a bigger problem is just a costly mistake. Dallas will run, and run, and run some more as the season progresses. Why wouldn't they when they have the one-two punch that they do.
2. Terrell Owens - I share initials with this guy - a fact that people point out almost daily - so maybe I am more sensitive towards him. Regardless, I think that the whole fiasco surrounding him this week is ridiculous. The press loves getting on this guy, and they will make a mountain out of a grain of sand to do so. Do I think that he made some stupid comments because he was frustrated about losing? Absolutely. And I don't doubt he did it publicly, too. Is that a problem? Not really. He's no different now than he has been, and I would bet that Jason Witten, Marion Barber, Felix Jones and the other targets of the offense complained and expressed their frustration as well. It's just that people don't hang on their every word like they do Owens'. Assuming that this debacle is a sign of bigger problems would be, in my mind, a mistake.
3. Washington - As I said earlier, it was a total joke that Washington got as little respect as they did in the line. This is as clear a example as there is of the power of a public team to skew lines. Dallas was clearly the better team, but if you have been watching Washington this year you'll notice a couple of things. First of all, they have gotten better every time they have played. Jim Zorn came in and changed things a lot on both sides of the ball. Through the preseason and into the first game things hadn't taken. Now, though, the defense looks confident and crisp. More significantly, Jason Campbell has taken to the offense, and he is running it very comfortably. He's been efficient, the offensive line is giving him and the running game lots of time, and he is getting his job done. I don't think that this is or will ever be an elite offense, but it is more than effective enough to do what needs to be done. The other thing you notice with this team is that they are really buying what Zorn is selling. He's a bit of an odd character, but the team is totally bought into his vision, and they are right behind him. There will still be bumps, but this is a much better team than the public thought they were coming into the Dallas game, and they will be one to watch.