When you look back at the end of the season and you talk about how it played out, there are one or two games where you would say that those were gut-check wins. Against the Redskins, this is one of those games that I would say had that feel.
Head coach Jason Garrett and his staff had to find a way, despite what had happened to them in San Diego and then the week before against the Broncos, to get a victory. And with Robert Griffin III in town, this was not going to be an easy task.
Offensively, the Redskins came into the game really not playing with much balance. Despite their record, they still have dangerous players and are talented at all levels. I was very nervous about Alfred Morris running the ball against the Cowboys defense, and physically giving Washington that balance it has lacked all season. But other than one long run, he was largely held in check by Jason Hatcher and his band of backups, who never allowed Morris to really get going.
If the Cowboys were going to slow down the Redskins attack, linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were going to have to be all over the field. Lee saved a touchdown on the opening drive when he beat Will Montgomery one-on-one in space to trip up Griffin, to hold the Redskins to a field goal.
Carter then showed some really nice discipline in handling the quarterback on the read option, which was an area that the Dallas defense really struggled with last season when these two clubs met. Lee and Carter were outstanding in getting off blocks and doing a nice job of carrying out their assignments when it came to the scheme.
I was honestly not sure how Brandon Carr, who lined up and carried Pierre Garcon all over the field, was really going to do, but he was more than up to the challenge. Although I thought there were several games this season when Carr was too soft, he physically matched the talented Garcon play-for-play the entire night. Carr's effort reminded me of why this front office invested so much of its resources in bringing him from Kansas City.
Carr did not allow Garcon to bully him in this matchup which he has done to cornerbacks this season. Carr never allowed the receiver out of his sight and it was clear throughout the game that Griffin struggled because his favorite target had no room to operate.
The final stats will tell you that Barry Church ended up with nine tackles and one pass defensed, which is a nice night numbers-wise, but there is some concern there. Matter of fact, there is really a concern at both safety spots when it comes to coverage.
I have never questioned the toughness of either Church or J.J. Wilcox, but there are plays where they are not in the position that they need to be in, which we have seen the last several weeks. Teams are taking advantage of the safety play on this defense when it comes to routes underneath and across the field. [embedded_ad]
While both Church and Wilcox do not have a great deal of game experience between them, they cannot allow tight ends to eat them up the way they have because they will only see more matchups that present problems. Game experience will help, but improvement needs to be made there quickly.
This was a huge win for a club that needed it in the worst way. It was a gut-check game for a lot of players who had no choice but to step up on defense and make plays, which is something that they will once again need next week when they travel to Philadelphia for another divisional game.